The next-generation business helicopters are futuristically styled and loaded with smarter, safer technology. They’re also quieter, smoother, and more fuel-efficient. Expect fewer maintenance headaches in choppers that capture the élan of the latest corporate-jet cabins.
Leonardo Helicopters’ AgustaWestland AW169 medium twin-engine model won Federal Aviation Administration certification in February; executive aircraft should be arriving in the U.S. by summer. Customers have ordered more than 160, a healthy number. It’s the first new cabin-class executive twin to hit the market since the Sikorsky S-76 arrived in 1979.
The AW169 incorporates new technologies in its rotor system, engines, avionics, transmission, and electric-power generation and distribution systems. The advancedRockwell Collins glass-panel touchscreen avionics include, for example, a four-axis digital autopilot and a dual flight-management system. Use of composites, including a thermoplastic tailplane, means the AW169 is lighter than the S-76D, despite the longer and wider cabin. Its baggage compartment is also 30% larger. The 222-cubic-foot cabin can accommodate six to 10 passengers.