First AW139 delivered for FB Heliservices training deal

By Craig Hoyle

AgustaWestland has delivered the first of two AW139 medium twin training helicopters on order for FB Heliservices (FBH). The rotorcraft will be used to support search and rescue (SAR) training for an undisclosed export customer.

Recently accepted by Bristow Helicopters/FR Aviation company FBH at AgustaWestland's Vergiate site in Italy, the first AW139 will be operated from Royal Air Force base Valley in north Wales.

© AgustaWestland

The programme's second aircraft will be delivered next month, according to the European manufacturer, which received a production contract for the pair in May 2008. The platform configuration includes a search radar, forward-looking infrared camera, rescue hoist and a night vision goggle-compatible cockpit.

© AgustaWestland

AgustaWestland signed a deal with an undisclosed customer last year for AW101 SAR aircraft and Lynx maritime helicopters, with the nation requesting a training package to be delivered in the UK. FBH has also acquired two secondhand AW109s to support the customer's requirements at RAF Shawbury, Shropshire.

Speaking at IQPC's Military Flight Training conference in London in February, AgustaWestland's head of operational flying training Paul Readfern said the company's training agreement with the nation covers the instruction of 22 air crews, totalling 80 people. Those streamed to fly the AW101 are also expected to make use of simulators at CAE's Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire.

Readfern also revealed plans for AgustaWestland to establish a separate aircrew training capability at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall "over the next one to two years".

The FBH consortium was established to deliver the UK's tri-service Defence Helicopter Flying School service. Launched in 1997 under a 15-year private finance initiative deal, the current training system will be in place until March 2012.

Aircraft assigned to the school include 34 single-engined Eurocopter AS350 Squirrels and 12 Bell 412 Griffins. The majority of these are based at RAF Shawbury, with operations also conducted from the School of Army Aviation at Middle Wallop in Hampshire and RAF Valley, which houses a dedicated SAR training unit.

FBH also provides eight civil-owned, military-registered Bell 212s to the British Army under a long-term agreement, with these operating in Belize, Brunei and at Middle Wallop.

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