The AW189 is a twin-engine “super medium” helicopter.
The aircraft currently operates in crew transportation for the offshore oil and gas industry, public service, firefighting and as a long-range search-and-rescue platform.
History and Development
The AW189 is a civil-orientated version of the military AW149, which in turn is an enlarged development of the popular AW139.
The AW189 is a medium-sized twin-engine helicopter with a five-bladed fully articulated main rotor, a four-bladed tail rotor and a retractable tricycle landing gear. It is powered by two General Electric CT7-2E1 turboshaft engines.
Aspects of the AW189 are deliberately similar to the AW139 and AW169. All these helicopters share similar flight performance characteristics, maintenance procedures, cockpit layout, safety features, and design philosophies.
The AW189 program was officially announced at the Paris International Air Show in 2011. A prototype first flew later that year (21 December 2011).
Six AW189s were used during the development period - four prototypes and a pair of pre-production aircraft. The pre-production aircraft were used to develop mission kits and configurations for offshore and SAR roles, enabling these to be immediately certified and available for customer selection. In August 2013, the fifth prototype was dispatched to the UK, so that AgustaWestland's UK branch could begin work on certifying the type for SAR operations.
The AW189 received type certification from EASA in February 2014 and then from the FAA in March 2015.
The AW189 is relatively unusual in having two production lines from a very early stage of its development – one in Italy (Vergiate) and the other in the UK (Yeovil). The serial numbers of each aircraft indicate its location of manufacture:
- MSNs beginning 49 are manufactured in Vergiate with standard fuel tanks
- MSNs beginning 89 are manufactured in Vergiate with extended range fuel tanks
- MSNs beginning 92 are manufactured in Yeovil
- MSNs beginning 93 are AW189K models manufactured in Vergiate, Italy
In June 2015 it was reported that slow development of the ice-protection system had delayed introduction of the type into operation with Bristow on the UK SAR contract. In September 2015 EASA certified a limited ice protection system with efforts continuing for the certification of a full ice protection system. The Full Ice Protection System (FIPS) was certified by EASA in mid 2016.
In October 2017 Leonardo announced the development of the AW189K variant, powered by two 2500 hp Aneto-1K turboshafts produced by Safran Helicopter Engines. EASA certification for the AW189K was achieved in June 2020. Hot and high operations should benefit from the additional 500shp (370kW) per engine. Gulf Helicopters will be the launch customer of the AW189K.
During development, the AW189 was designed to comply with the latest international regulatory safety requirements (and particularly those required for offshore operations, such as search and rescue and services to the oil and gas industries). With this in mind, the main gearbox has 50-minute run-dry capacity, which exceeds safety requirements and was at the time a feature unique to the AW189.
The cockpit features high levels of external visibility and advanced situational awareness technologies and is designed to reduce crew workload and enhance safety. Avionics on the AW189 are fully integrated and displayed on four colour LCD panels. The avionics were designed to use an open architecture, making customer-specified upgrades and additions easier and enabling additional options.
The AW189's cabin can accommodate up to 19 passengers and two crew members. The cabin is accessed via large sliding doors on either side of the fuselage. The helicopter also has a separate externally accessed baggage compartment. An optional dividing wall between the cockpit and main cabin may also be installed. Under certain conditions and limitations, the aircraft can be flown by a single pilot.
Various pieces of optional equipment can be installed upon the AW189, including fast roping kits, external electric hoist, cargo hook, air conditioning, auxiliary fuel tanks, mission console, emergency flotation system (certified up to Sea State 6), external life rafts, emergency lighting, external search light, main cabin bubble windows, wire strike protection system and de-icing systems.
Bristow have operated a large fleet of AW189s since 2014 on the primary SAR contract for the United Kingdom. AAR Airlift and partner British International Helicopters (BIH) operate two AW189s from Mount Pleasant Airfield in the Falkland Islands on another commercial SAR contract.
The AW189 has a very good safety record with no major accidents recorded.
The AW189 future is uncertain due to its link to the oil and gas market.
The helicopter was developed specifically for an oil and gas market which is now in permanent decline. As per its direct competitor, Airbus’ H175, the future of the AW189 depends on whether operators will be willing to pay the extra capital cost of a new-design aircraft such as the AW189 in preference to other options such as the S-92.
Unlike the H175, the AW189 is well established and proven in the SAR role with 15 AW189s currently operating in this role. It is therefore a strong contender for other commercial SAR operations.
The AW189 has also achieved limited penetration into the utility market, performing roles such as firefighting. Currently three helicopters work in this role. It will be interesting to see if this number increases over time.
Costs and Values
The dry leasing market for the AW189 is not sufficiently developed for guidance to be provided on dry lease rates. Most of the leased AW189s are operating in the SAR role, and for these leases the long-term secure cashflow of the government SAR contract is an important factor in determining the lease rate.
The list price of a new AW189 is US$17m. There have been very few sales of AW189s and so it is not possible to provide useful guidance on sale values.
The primary maintenance events on the AW189 are as follows:
- Hourly Inspections at 400hrs, 800 hrs, 1,600hrs and 3,200hrs
- Calendar Inspections at 1yr, 2yrs and 4yrs
Engine inspections at 400hrs, 800hrs and 1,600 hrs.
There is no current fixed-time overhaul requirement for the engines.
Power by the hour products
Leonardo Helicopters offers a Full Component Plan (FCP) support package for the airframe.
General Electric (GE) offer the TrueChoice support package for the engines.
ITP Aero also offers its own MRO support package for the engines.
Auxiliary Power Unit (APU):
Safran offers a support by the hour package for the APU.
The Leonardo Helicopters home page for the AW189:
The Wikipedia page for the AW189:
The Vertipedia page for the H175
An article on Leonardo’s continuous improvement for the AW189 (March 2021)
First AW189 deployed in Korea (March 2019)
A serious incident report on the AW189 (March 2019)
A video of the AW189 by Leonardo Helicopters (January 2019)
A video of an offshore AW189 in Australia by Leonardo Helicopters (January 2019)
A serious incident report on the AW189 (February 2018)
The AW189 enters the Australian market (November 2017)
AW189K introduced at Helitech (October 2017)
AW189 to support Oil & Gas operations in Russia (July 2017)
AW189 to enter offshore service in Brazil (May 2017)
Article on the AW189 in the offshore market (January 2017)
A video of the AW189 by Leonardo Helicopters (October 2016)
CoastGuard AW189s are too big for hospital helipads (September 2016)
Full Ice Protection System certified on AW189 (July 2016)
AW189 global fleet passes 10,000 flight hours (March 2016)
First AW189s enter service in UAE (June 2015)
An incident relating to AW189 losing power from one engine on approach (May 2015)
FAA validates the AW189 (March 2015)
AW189 production line established in Russia (January 2015)
The rise of the super-mediums – an article by Aerossurance (May 2014)
EASA certifies the AW189 (February 2014)
AW189 completes first flight (December 2013)
First production AW189 makes maiden flight (October 2013)
AW189 selected for UK Search and Rescue (March 2013)
A video of a demo flight for the AW189 by Leonardo Helicopters (December 2012)
AW189: Buyer’s and Investor’s Guide (August 2012)
Article by Helicopter Investor - AgustaWestland unveils the AW189 (June 2011)