Leonardo on Wednesday said it would build a “comprehensive customer support center” next to Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Florida if it wins the contract for the TH-73 Advanced Helicopter Training System.
The company is offering its TH-119 s to replace the Navy’s legacy fleet of TH-57 Sea Ranger training helicopters.
The Navy is expected to choose the winner for the up to 130 helicopters offer by the end of 2019. The service is on a truncated timeline to buy up to 125 certified and commercially available aircraft within five years. An award to a single competitor is expected in November.
Leonardo specified a 100,000 square foot facility would be in Whiting Aviation Park in Northwest Florida’s Santa Rosa County and will create 40-50 jobs. The park is adjacent to Naval Air Station Whiting Field, where helicopter pilots for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard are trained.
“Leonardo continuously makes investments that bring the Company closer to its customers. We hope to soon invest in Santa Rosa County,” said William Hunt, CEO of Leonardo Helicopters Philadelphia.
The company said this prospective facility is planned as a Part 145 Repair Station and will provide 24/7 service like spare parts, warranty processing and renewal, technical and product engineering and component and airframe repair.
Leonardo explained a limited-access use agreement between Santa Rosa County and the Navy allows tenants of Whiting Aviation Park to use the Navy’s airfield facilities for “efficient aircraft transfers which will reduce service time.”
In July, the TH-119 offering cleared the Federal Aviation Administration for IFR, allowing it to fly in inclement weather under instrument flight rules. It is the first single-engine helicopter to earn that certification in decades (Defense Daily, July 18).
IFR certification allows a pilot to fly the aircraft in bad weather with limited visibility, using only onboard avionics and navigation instruments. That is a core requirement for the Navy’s TH-73 training helicopter replacement program.
Other competitors for the TH-73 are the twin-engine Airbus H135 and Bell [TXT] 407GXi, a sort of descendant of the TH-57.