NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Leonardo Helicopters has completed flights of its single-engine TH-119 necessary for instrument flight rules certification and should gain FAA approval in coming weeks.
If successful, the TH-119 — Leonardo’s pitch for the U.S. Navy’s next-generation training rotorcraft — will become the first single-engine IFR certified helicopter in decades.
IFR certification allows a pilot to fly the aircraft through bad weather, where pilot visibility is limited, using only onboard avionics and navigation instruments. The Navy is requiring the certification for its new TH-XX, which will replace the legacy TH-57 Sea Ranger fleet used by all Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard pilot trainees.
“We’re done flying and it’s with the FAA,” said Andrew Gappy, Leonardo’s director of U.S. government sales. “We should have a piece of paper within 30 days.”
The process to certify the TH-119, based on the company’s commercial AW119, took seven months, Gappy told sister publication R&WI on May 6 at the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space conference here. FAA inspectors will now go over all the necessary paperwork, perform a conformity check of the aircraft and then the process should wrap up, he said.
TH-119 features a four-touchscreen all-glass Genesys Aerosystems cockpit, which is also installed on the twin-engine AW109 Trekker. It is the fourth cockpit evolution the company has been through in eight years of developing the AW119, Gappy said.
Configured as a training helicopter, the dual-display avionics system allows instruction from either pilot seat with full IFR capabilities including flight director and 3-axis full autopilot.
Also competing to replace the Navy’s fleet of legacy TH-57 Sea Ranger training helicopters are the twin-engine Airbus H135 and the Bell [TXT] 407GXi, an evolutionary descendant of the TH-57. The Navy is on an abbreviated timeline to purchase as many as 125 IFR certified, commercially available aircraft within five years. The H135 is IFR certified and both Leonardo and Bell have until August to achieve certification and deliver documentation to the Navy, according to the service’s timeline. An award to one company is expected in November.
Bell is confident the 407GXi also will gain IFR certification in time to meet the Navy’s deadline. Carl Forsling, manager of domestic campaigns and global military sales and strategy at Bell, told R&WI the FAA would sign off on its TH-XX pitch by August.
“We have a few test events that we’re still working on, but we’re very confident that we will be certified in time to meet the Navy’s requirements,” Forsling told R&WI at Sea-Air-Space.