AgustaWestland AW139

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EC-KXA SASEMAR AugustaWestland AW139.jpg
A Spanish Maritime Security and Rescue Society AW139SAR
RoleMedium-lift SAR/utility helicopter
First flight3 February 2001
Primary usersCHC Helicopter
Irish Air Corps
UAE Air Force
Number built600[1]
Unit cost
$12 million (2013)[2]
Developed intoAgustaWestland AW149
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EC-KXA SASEMAR AugustaWestland AW139.jpg
A Spanish Maritime Security and Rescue Society AW139SAR
RoleMedium-lift SAR/utility helicopter
First flight3 February 2001
Primary usersCHC Helicopter
Irish Air Corps
UAE Air Force
Number built600[1]
Unit cost
$12 million (2013)[2]
Developed intoAgustaWestland AW149

The AgustaWestland AW139 is a 15-seat medium sized twin-engined helicopter developed and produced principally by AgustaWestland. It is marketed at several different roles, including VIP/corporate transport, offshore transport, fire fighting, law enforcement, search and rescue, emergency medical service, disaster relief, and maritime patrol.[3] In addition to AgustaWestland's own manufacturing facilities in Italy and the United States, the AW139 is produced in Russia by HeliVert, a joint venture between AgustaWestland and Rostvertol.

The AW139 was originally designed and developed jointly by Agusta and Bell Helicopters and marketed as the Agusta-Bell AB139, it was redesignated the AW139 when Bell withdrew from the project. Since entering service in 2003, the AW139 has become one of AgustaWestland's most influential products; it has been subsequently developed into two enlarged medium-lift helicopters, the military-orientated AW149 and the AW189 for the civil market.



A corporate transport AW139

In 1997, the Italian helicopter manufacturer Agusta launched a programme to develop a replacement for the Bell Huey family of helicopters (which had been built in very large numbers by Bell Helicopter and under license by Agusta) with a potential market of 900 aircraft being predicted. In 1998, Bell and Agusta entered into an agreement, setting up a joint venture, Bell/Agusta Aerospace Company (BAAC) to develop two aircraft: a conventional helicopter and a tiltrotor aircraft. These became the Bell/Agusta AB139 and Bell/Agusta BA609 respectively;[4] Bell was to be the leading partner for the development of the BA609 while Agusta would be the lead partner in AB139; it was intended for production, sales, and support to be shared.[5]

On 26 September 2000, the first order for the type was placed by Bristow Helicopters. The first pre-production helicopter flew on 3 February 2001 at Vergiate in Italy,[6][7] two further AW139s also participated in flying trials.[8] The first production AW139 made its first flight on 24 June 2002.[9] European JAA certification was received in June 2003, and its FAA type certificate followed in December 2004. By May 2005, the AW139 had received in excess of 100 orders worldwide.[5] In the US, the type was marketed under the designation US139, and was entered into the US Army's Light Utility Helicopter competition.[10]

In April 2008, AgustaWestland revealed that it was in the process of certifying an increase in the AW139's max gross weight to 14,991 lb (6,800 kg) to better compete in long-range markets served by helicopters such as the larger Sikorsky S-92 and Eurocopter EC225.[11] In 2007, a second production line at the AgustaWestland Aerospace plant in Philadelphia, United States was established. By 2011, AgustaWestland was producing 90 AW139s a year, the type was being directly attributed as responsible for 9.5% of the company's overall revenue in 2010.[12] By 2013, a combined total of 720 AW139s had been sold to over 200 operators in 60 different countries.[3]

Further development[edit]

The AW139 has a 5-blade main rotor and a retractable undercarriage

In 2011, a military-configured variant, the AW139M, was revealed by AgustaWestland. It was promoted at the US market, including for the U.S. Air Force’s Common Vertical Lift Support Program. The AW139M is equipped with a high definition forward-looking infrared (FLIR), self-protection system, heavy-duty landing gear, and has low thermal and acoustic signatures; a significant proportion of the equipment is sourced from American manufacturers. Options offered include an external stores system including various armaments, armored seats, self-sealing fuel tanks, and a full ice-protection system for all-weather operations.[13][14]

The AW139 serves as the basis for AgustaWestland's wider business strategy, under which it aims to produce a standardised family of helicopters with common design features. The sharing of components and design philosophies is intended to simplify maintenance and training for operators, commonality also lowers the production costs. The AW139 is the first of this group, as of 2014 it is to be joined by the larger AW149 and AW189, aimed at military and civilian customers respectively. Advances made in the development of new models are intended to be transferrable onto existing family members, this would have the effect of decreasing the cost of future upgrades for the AW139.[14][12]

In June 2010, it was announced that AgustaWestland and Rostvertol would build a manufacturing plant in Tomilino, Moscow Region, it was initially planned to produce AW139s by 2012.[15] HeliVert, a joint venture between AgustaWestland and Rostvertol, commenced domestic production of the AW139 in 2012, at which point it was planned that between 15 and 20 helicopters would be produced per year. In January 2013, the Russian Defense Ministry was reportedly considering placing an order for seven AW139s.[16] In January 2014, HeliVert, received a Certificate of Approval from the Aviation Register of the Interstate Aviation Committee to commence production of commercial AW139s.[17]


Instrument panel of the AW139

The AW139 is a conventional twin-engine multi-role helicopter. It has a five-bladed fully articulated main rotor with a titanium hub and composite blades and a four-bladed articulated tail rotor. It is fitted with a retractable tricycle landing gear, the two aft wheels retract into external sponsons, which are also used to house emergency equipment.[5] It is flown by a crew of two pilots, with up to 15 passengers accommodated in three rows of five. The AW139 had been aimed at a vacant niche in the market, sitting below larger types such as the Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma and Sikorsky S-92 and above smaller ones like the Bell 412 and Eurocopter EC155.[5] Rotor & Wing has described the AW139's flying attitude as 'docile and predictable'.[5]

The AW139 is powered by two FADEC-controlled Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C turboshaft engines; the FADEC system seamlessly adjusts the engines for pilot convenience and passenger comfort, and can automatically handle a single-engine failure without noticeable deviation.[18] It was constructed with maintenance requirements in mind; critical systems can be readily accessed, where possible the number of parts has been reduced, and many components have been designed for an extended lifecycle; a Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) is also equipped.[19] Various specialist equipment can be configured per customer demand, including auxiliary fuel tanks, rescue hoists, cargo hooks, search and weather radar, ice protection systems, external cameras and search lights, and seating arrangements.[5]

The AW139 features a modular glass cockpit, a commonly-installed feature is the four-axis autopilot, which enables functions such as an auto-hover capability. The cockpit has been designed to enable single-pilot flight operations under instrument flight rules conditions, it is also compatible with the use of night vision goggles.[5] Pilot training for the type is available via advanced Level D Full Flight Simulators. According to Shipping & Marine, the AW139 has "the largest cabin in its class"; containing up to 15 passengers or four litters and accompanying medics, an additional baggage compartment is used to stow equipment to keep the main cabin clear for use.[19]

Large sections of the AW139 have been developed and produced by a range of different companies. Airframes are typically produced by PZL-Świdnik, who delivered their 200th airframe in April 2014.[20] Pratt & Whitney Canada produce the type's PT6C turboshaft engines, while the primary and secondary transmissions were developed by Westland GKN and Kawasaki Heavy Industries respectively. A significant portion of the avionics are sourced from Honeywell.[8] Turkish Aerospace Industries has been subcontracted to manufacture various elements of the AW139, including the fuselage, canopy, and radome.[21] Final assembly of most AW139s is performed at AgustaWestland's facilities in Philadelphia, United States, and Vergiate, Italy;[20] those destined for customers within the Commonwealth of Independent States are typically assembled by a third final manufacturing plant in Tomilino, Moscow operated by HeliVert.[15]

Operational history[edit]

A SASEMAR AW139 during a helihoisting exercise

The Irish Air Corps was the first military operator of the type, taking delivery of its first AW139s in August 2006.[22] In 2009, the Qatar Air Force became the third military operator of the AW139, and has ordered 18 of the type.[23] The Italian Air Force was the launch customer for the specialised AW139M variant.[14]

In February 2006, Mitsui Bussan Aerospace signed a $100 million contract for 12 AW139s and an exclusive distribution agreement for the AW139 in Japan.[22] In October 2006, the Japan Coast Guard announced its selection of the AW139 as the replacement for its Bell 212 search and rescue fleet; by early 2011, 18 AW139s were on order by the Japan Coast Guard through Mitsui Bussan as the distributor, a total of 24 are expected to be ordered.[22][24]

In the North American market, CHC Helicopter was the first operator of the type;[8] in 2012 CHC became the largest operator of the AW139 in the world, operating 44 in search and rescue, emergency medical service and offshore transport missions.[25]

Qatar-based firm Gulf Helicopters has emerged as one of the largest AW139 operators worldwide, first ordering the type in 2007 for offshore transport duties; it has since become an authorized service center and training center for the AW139.[26]

Malaysian operator Weststar Aviation has the distinction of being the biggest operator of the AW139 in the Asia Pacific; as of February 2014, the company has ordered a total of 34 helicopters.[27] Since taking delivery of their first AW139 in December 2010, Weststar has typically employed the type in support of offshore oil and gas operations.[28]


Original Italian-built production aircraft, 54 built.[29]
Designation change from 55th aircraft onwards, built in Italy.[29]
AW139 (long nose configuration)
Long nose variant with increased room for avionics built in Italy.[29]
Militarised variant, capable of carrying various weapons payloads.[30]
Italian Air Force designation for ten search-and rescue configured AW139Ms.[31]
Italian Air Force designation for two VIP configured AW139s.[32]


AW139 at Trento, 2012
AW139 in flight, 2010
Royal Air Force AW139 using its hoist during a training exercise
CHC Helicopters AW139 taking off
External video
AW139 performing an sea rescue exercise in Valencia, 2013
Documentry - Megafactories AgustaWestland AW139 Manufacturing
AW139 lifting a sports car

Military operators[edit]

 Trinidad and Tobago
 United Arab Emirates
 United Kingdom

Government and civil operators[edit]

 United Kingdom
 United States

Notable accidents[edit]

Specifications AW139[edit]

Irish Air Corps AW139 during a flight display, 2012
Guardia Costiera AW139 in a state of partial disassembly

Data from AgustaWestland,[62] EASA[29]

General characteristics



See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists



  1. ^ "AgustaWestland Delivers 600th AW139 Featuring Special Paint Scheme and Mission Configuration". Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Huber, Mark. "Russia Balks at 35-AW139 Order." AIN Online, 2 October 2013.
  3. ^ a b "US Corporate Operator Signs Contract For Two AW139 Helicopters." AgustaWestland, 18 June 2014.
  4. ^ Niccoli 2001, p. 158.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Bower, Ron. "The AB139: Filling The Market Gap." Rotor&Wing, 1 May 2005.
  6. ^ Jackson 2003, p. 227.
  7. ^ Niccoli 2001, p. 163.
  8. ^ a b c "AW139, setting the standard in its category.", 14 June 2012.
  9. ^ Jackson 2003, p. 31.
  10. ^ "Mission-Configured US139 Demonstrates Ability To Meet And Exceed Requirements." AgustaWestland, 21 December 2005.
  11. ^ McKenna, Thomas. "Rotorcraft Report: AgustaWestland Bolsters AW139, Racks Up Orders." Rotor&Wing, 1 April 2008.
  12. ^ a b Osborne, Tony. "PAS 2011: AW139 has 'changed' AgustaWestland's behaviour". Rotorhub. Shephard Media. 20 June 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  13. ^ "AgustaWestland Debuts the AW139M Helicopter." AgustaWestland, 17 February 2011.
  14. ^ a b c Head, Elan. "Upward Trend." Vertical, 22 January 2014.
  15. ^ a b "Italian, Russian Firms to Build Helicopter Factory | Business". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 2012-09-14. 
  16. ^ "Russia to Buy 7 AW139 Helicopters." RIA Novosti, 28 January 2013.
  17. ^ "HeliVert gets approval for production of commercial AW139.", 30 January 2014.
  18. ^ Niccoli 2001, pp. 158–159, 162.
  19. ^ a b "Swedish Maritime Administration Orders Seven AW139 Helicopters for Search and Rescue." Shipping & Marine, 4 February 2013.
  20. ^ a b "Helicopter News.", 5 April 2014.
  21. ^ "AW139 Program - Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc". Retrieved 2014-03-20. 
  22. ^ a b c "Year in Review—Products: Pick of the Litter." Rotor&Wing, 1 December 2006.
  23. ^ Hoyle, Craig. "PICTURE: Qatar accepts first AW139 military helicopter." Flight International, 25 November 2009.
  24. ^ "AgustaWestland receives orders for 8 more AW139 helicopters." Shephard Media, 9 March 2011.
  25. ^ "CHC Helicopter Signs Contract for 10 AW139s.", 10 July 2012.
  26. ^ "Gulf Helicopters AW139 fleet achieves 50,000 hour milestone." Arabian Aerospace Online News Service, 31 March 2014.
  27. ^ a b "Weststar Orders 10 Additional AW139 Helicopters". AgustaWestland. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  28. ^ "Weststar Aviation Services Takes Delivery of Its First AW139." AgustaWestland, 2 December 2010.
  29. ^ a b c d "Type Certicate Data Sheet: AB139-AW139." European Aviation Safety Agency, Issue 15, 23 January 2012.
  30. ^ "AW139M." AgustaWestland, Retrieved: 5 April 2014.
  31. ^ Flight International "Italy fields first of 10 search and rescue HH-193As", 20–26 March 2012
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "World Air Forces 2014". Flightglobal Insight. 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
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  41. ^ "Cyprus Police - Cyprus Police Aviation Unit". Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
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  46. ^ "Guardia di Finanza - AW139". Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  47. ^ "I MEZZI - AW139 NEMO - Capitanerie di porto - Guardia Costiera - - Sito Ufficiale". Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
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  49. ^ "Laatse vlucht Kustwacht AS-332 helikopter". Kustwacht. 21 October 2012. Retrieved 2013-05-01. 
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  52. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  53. ^ "Sjöfartsverkets nya räddningshelikopter på svensk mark - Sjofartsverket". 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2013-10-28. 
  54. ^ "Air Operations - AW139 Helicopter". Retrieved 21 February 2013. 
  55. ^ "Maryland State Police unveil new medevac AW139". 7 October 2012. 
  56. ^ "Fifth and final AW139 delivered to New Jersey State Police". 10 July 2012. 
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  58. ^ "Milestone Aviation Group Signs Contract to Purchase First Eight New-Generation AgustaWestland Helicopters". AgustaWestland. 28 February 2014. 
  59. ^ Interim statement A002/2010 - Accident involving an AgustaWestland AW139, registration EC-KYR, operated by INAER, off the Almeria coast, on 21 January 2010, at 19:16 UTC.
  60. ^ "4 missing, 1 dead in failed rescue attempt at sea". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  61. ^ BBC News - Lord Ballyedmond: NI peer among Norfolk helicopter crash dead
  62. ^


External links[edit]