Leonardo’s US Navy training helicopter contender completes first flight

Italian defense contractor Leonardo announced that its TH-119 IFR training helicopter successfully completed its maiden flight on December 20.

The TH-119 is Leonardo’s bid to replace the US Navy’s aging fleet of TH-57 Sea Ranger training helicopters, a variant of the AW119, manufactured in the US.

US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) released a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Advanced Helicopter Training Systems (AHTS) TH-XX Aircraft program on October 31, 2018. Airbus and Bell are the other two competitors in the program.

Leonardo says the TH-119 remains on track to achieve full FAA IFR certification in early 2019, making it the only single-engine IFR-certified helicopter in production in decades.

The TH-119 was flown by Leonardo pilot Patrick McKernan at the company’s Philadelphia plant where all variants of AW119s are built. The flight which included an assessment of general handling and avionics systems.

If selected by the US Navy, a fleet of over 125 TH-119s will be built in Philadelphia utilizing the plant’s existing AW119 manufacturing and support facility.

“Already made in USA, the TH-119 is an affordable, off-the-shelf teaching helicopter that combines proven performance, flexibility and safety. It is built to accomplish every current navy undergraduate training mission and flight skill maneuver with plenty of room to grow over the venerable TH-57,” said Andrew Gappy, Leonardo director of US government sales.

The TH-119’s dual-display Genesys Aerosystems glass cockpit allows instruction from either pilot seat with full IFR capabilities including flight director and 3-axis full autopilot. Its 180-degree adjustable observer seat offers student pilots full view of the cockpit. The helicopter is powered by the 1,000 shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-B engine, and has the durability of a cocoon-type metal airframe with reinforced shock stabilized skids for touchdown maneuver training. To minimize time on the ground and maximize operational flexibility the TH-119 can “hot” pressure refuel.

Photo: Photo: Leonardo