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Leonardo Helicopters AW189

Posted on January 14 2022

Leonardo Helicopters AW189 user+1@localho… Fri, 01/14/2022 - 21:17

The AW189 is a super-medium-twin category helicopter produced by European manufacturer Leonardo. Launched at the 2011 Paris Air Show, the AW189 first flew on Dec. 21, 2011, from the company’s Cascina Costa facility in Italy and was certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on Feb. 7, 2014. Subsequently, the first AW189 was delivered to launch customer Bristow Helicopters in April 2014, with the first revenue operation taking place on July 21, 2014, carrying oil workers from Norwich International Airport in England.

More than six years after the type originally received approval, EASA certified Safran Helicopter Engines’ Aneto-1K engine as an alternative to General Electric’s (GE) CT7-2E1, with airframes powered by the former using the AW189K commercial designation. That version of the AW189 made its first flight powered by Safran engines on March 9, 2017, from the Cascina Costa facility, with the AW189K formally being announced on Oct. 3, 2017. Following its launch, Leonardo announced at the 2020 Heli-Expo that the AW189K’s launch customer would be Qatar-based Gulf Helicopters, which was the launch customer in the offshore market for the CT7-2E1-powered AW189. At the time that Gulf Helicopters was announced as the launch customer, the manufacturer noted that the AW189K would enter service with that operator “in the second half of 2020.” Prior to the airframe’s certification in June 2020, the Aneto-1K engine received EASA approval on Dec. 19, 2019. Regardless of any distinctions between the AW189 and AW189K commercial designations, the type certificate for the AW189 is held by Leonardo S.p.A. of Rome, Italy.

Although the AW189 is intended to be utilized by civilian operators on the types of missions noted below, the airframe itself is a derivative of the militarized AW149, which is capable of performing a number of other missions. Indeed, the AW149—which is described by Leonardo as being a multi-role helicopter—was launched five years prior to the AW189 at the 2006 Farnborough Airshow. Following its launch, the militarized airframe made its first flight on Nov. 13, 2009, from then-AgustaWestland’s—a corporate predecessor to Leonardo—facility in Vergiate, Italy, a flight that was performed by a demonstrator airframe that “combined the airframe and avionics of the [AW]149 and the dynamic train and engines of the AW139.” The first AW149 was delivered to Royal Thai Army in February 2017.

Maximum Passenger Seating Capacity and Cabin Configurations

The AW189’s 395.5-ft.3 cabin, which is promoted as being the largest and widest in its class, is certified to a maximum passenger seating capacity of 19. In order to accommodate that number of seats, the cabin must be configured in a high-density layout that spreads the seats out over four rows, while the AW189’s standard configuration includes 16 seats, the latter of which is described as being part of the “typical offshore passenger transport completion.” Both of those configurations are promoted as being of value to operators in the energy services sector, with the location of the seats noted as being aligned with the “large push-out windows, exceeding the Type IV emergency exits requirements.” Other benefits of the AW189 for this type of operator include the overall size of the cabin and baggage compartment, the latter of which is noted as having an 85-ft.3 volume. Further described as being a high-capacity baggage compartment that can be externally accessed from both sides of the helicopter, it features “composite protective panels” that allow for the carriage of unrestrained baggage. When required, Leonardo states that the cabin can also be reconfigured for medical evacuation (medevac) and limited search-and-rescue (SAR) operations, with the latter type of operations being further enabled by the “capability to rapidly install equipment for limited SAR operations.” In addition to the 16-passenger configuration, the typical AW189 utilized for offshore passenger operations also includes an environmental control system that provides air conditioning and a Helicopter Emergency Exit Light System (HEELS).

Cabin layouts for executive and private operators are marketed as allowing up to 14 seats, while Leonardo promotes the size of the cabin—as well as the low internal noise and vibration levels—as improving the onboard environment. An additional benefit available for AW189s utilized for corporate and private transportation is the “wireless integration of personal devices and helicopter systems.”

When configured for medevac and SAR operations, the cabin is able to accommodate “up to nine personnel, three stretchers and a full suite of life-support equipment.” Leonardo also markets the cabin as able to accommodate two longitudinally or transversely oriented stretchers, with the cabin itself promoted as able to be easily reconfigured. At the time of the certification of the AW189’s SAR variant in late 2014, the manufacturer noted that two stretchers, six seated survivors and two crew could be accommodated in the cabin. When loading and unloading patients—both on the ground and while airborne—the size of the sliding cabin doors is also noted as being beneficial.

One of the characteristics of the AW149 that Leonardo markets as enabling it to be a multi-role helicopter are the number of possible configurations, with the cabin itself promoted as being “rapidly reconfigurable.” Those configurations include cargo pallet resupply and external lift, casualty evacuation (casevac) and medevac; command and control and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C2ISR); close air support/armed escort, SAR, special forces operations and combat SAR and troop transport. When configured for troop transport, the cabin can accommodate 19 “lightly equipped” soldiers or 16 “fully equipped” ones, with those personnel able to be seated in a number of different layouts. For missions that involve cargo pallet resupply and/or external lift, the size of the cabin and the cabin doors—combined with a 6,173-lb. cargo hook capacity—are promoted by Leonardo as being of value. When utilized in casevac and medevac operations, the cabin can accommodate up to four NATO stretchers “in a floor mounted module,” while a three-stretcher module can also be fitted “for more demanding missions.” Specific to the latter type of evacuation mission, the utility equipment for the airframe is marketed as allowing for the carriage of 4-6 stretchers. With respect to supporting special forces operations, the cabin can be configured with a “centrally mounted, sideways facing back-to-back seat layout” that speeds the egress and ingress of special force soldiers. For SAR operations, features such as the installation of a pair of seats for hoist operators and medics, as well a further seating for operators of defensive measures, are marketed as being value.


Pilots operate the AW189 using a “fully integrated avionics system” that includes four 8 X 10-in. active matrix liquid crystal displays (AMLCD). Describing as having an “open-architecture avionics suite,” the avionics technologies installed are able to utilize performance-based navigation (PBN) procedures and routes including required navigation performance (RNP) 0.3 NM during “all phases of flight,” with RNP authorization required (AR), localizer performance with vertical guidance (LPV) and Automatic Oil Rig approaches also being possible. Depending upon the needs of the operator, automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast Out (ADS-B Out), multiple communication systems—high frequency (HF) and very high-frequency (VHF), as well as satellite communications (SATCOM) “with flight following”—nose-mounted electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) camera, helicopter terrain awareness and warning system (HTAWS) with “dedicated offshore modes,” traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS II) and weather radar are also able to be installed. For both offshore operators and those performing medevac/SAR missions, an automatically deployable emergency locator transmitter (ADELT) is available.

The avionics capabilities and technologies that are promoted as being of value for medevac and SAR operations include the integration of the cabin and cockpit of the AW189 SAR variant into a “single digital environment.” Indeed, Leonardo notes that the mission equipment is fully integrated into the AW189’s flight management system (FMS), including SAR mission equipment such as an automatic identification system (AIS) transponder, digital map, direction finder, forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and weather radar. Airframe safety for such operators is enhanced by technologies such as the obstacle proximity lidar system (OPLS), which is described as providing pilots with clearance from “surrounding obstacles.” Also part of the “SAR open-architecture avionics suite” is search modes and patterns, the ability to intercept moving waypoints and hover point approach. The search mode and patterns feature of the SAR avionics suite incorporates a number of integrated modes and five search patterns, with a preview of each search pattern able to be displayed. In additions to the FMS, the SAR modes are also incorporated into the helicopter’s automatic flight control system (AFCS). A mission console is also present in AW189s outfitted for SAR operations, while other features of such airframes include an HF radio—as well as VHF and ultra-high-frequency (UHF) AM/FM tactical radio—and internal and external night-vision-goggle (NVG) compatibility.

According to the EASA type certificate data sheet for the AW189 type, the number of pilots required is dependent on the type of operation conducted and the equipped engines. When operating in day visual flight rules (VFR) conditions—regardless of equipped engines—only a single pilot is required, while Safran-powered airframes are also certified for single-pilot operations in night VFR and instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions. A number of situations require two pilots, including Cat. A operations with both engine types—if the takeoff or landing is performed from the left seat—as well as operations in limited icing, IFR and night VFR conditions in CT7-2E1-powered AW189s. However, when certain conditions and limitations are met, GE-powered airframes are able to operate with a single pilot in VFR night and IFR conditions. When performing night vision imaging system (NVIS) operations, two pilots—or, alternatively, one pilot and one crew member—are required, with both “equipped with NVGs.”

The avionics of the AW149 include the same four 8 X 10-in. NVG-compatible AMLCD displays as the AW189, while also featuring an FMS function and a four-axis digital AFCS that is marketed as having “advanced autopilot functions.” In addition to those features, the helicopter also has a communication system that enables secure data and voice, digital maps and a tactical data display, an enhanced vision system, identification and standby information systems, a civil and military navigation system and external/internal NVG lighting. Military communications technologies include a blue force tracker, personnel locator system, secure and combat tactical radios, tactical data link and video downlink. An EO/IR sensor, that can feature a laser range finder/designator, is located in the forward portion of the fuselage, while an integrated mission console provides capabilities such as C2ISR, link management and tactical processing. The AW149’s C2ISR capabilities come from a cabin mission console that is described as “fully integrated” with the helicopter’s mission management and systems, as well as sensors. Avionics features that clearly differentiate the AW149 from the AW189 include an integrated defensive aids suite (DAS) that incorporates an electronic countermeasure dispensing system (ECDS), IR jammer, laser and radar warning receivers (LWR/RWR) and a missile warning system (MWS). As is the case with AW189s outfitted for offshore energy services and medevac/SAR, the AW149 can also feature weather radar.

Mission and Performance

As is noted above, the missions which Leonardo markets the AW189 as capable of performing include corporate, private and offshore energy services passenger transportation, as well as medevac/SAR operations. At the time of its launch, the militarized AW149 was noted as filling the gap between AgustaWestland’s A109 and the NH90, the latter of which is produced by NHIndustries, a joint venture between Airbus Helicopters, Fokker Aerostructures and Leonardo. As was also previously discussed, the AW149 is a multi-mission helicopter that is capable of performing military missions such as command and control, counterterrorism, disaster relief support, medevac, parachuting, SAR, special operations and tactical and VIP transport.

Operating limitations of the AW189 include a power-on, all-engines-operating (AEO) never-exceed speed (VNE) of 169 kt. indicated airspeed (KIAS), while the maximum operating altitudes vary based on the equipped engines. The maximum operating altitudes for CT7-2E1 and Aneto-1K-equipped AW189s are 10,000 ft. and 15,000 ft., respectively, while the maximum takeoff and landing altitudes are reduced to 8,000 ft. and 14,000 ft. on airframes powered by those engines. The altitudes for the GE engines are based on pressure or density altitude—whichever occurs first—while the maximum altitudes for the Safran engines are based solely on density altitude. The maximum range and endurance—which are based on the AW189’s maximum gross weight for takeoff and landing (MGW), sea-level altitude, standard conditions, no reserve and “extended range auxiliary fuel tanks”—also vary based on the equipped engines, with the respective range figures for Safran and GE-powered helicopters being 571 nm and 651 nm. Based on the same criteria, the AW189K has a maximum endurance of 5 hr. 20 min., a figure that is increased to 6 hr. 10 min. on airframes equipped with the CT7-2E1 engines. When equipped with GE engines—and operating in standard conditions at the MGW—both the AW149 and AW189 are promoted as being capable of a hover-in-ground-effect (HIGE) altitude of 12,953 ft., while the hover-out-of-ground-effect (HOGE) altitude is 9,490 ft. For airframes equipped with Safran engines, those respective figures are increased to 15,000 ft. and 12,750 ft.

From a performance perspective, the AW149—when equipped with either GE or Safran engines—has reduced endurance and range when compared to the AW189. Assuming standard conditions, sea-level altitude and an 18,298-lb. airframe—as well as carrying no reserve but equipped with “under floor’ and ‘transversal’ auxiliary fuel tanks”—the range and endurance of AW149s equipped with the CT7-2E1 engines are 517 nm and 4 hr. 55 min., respectively. Based on the same weight and conditions, the comparative figures for Aneto-1K-powered helicopters are further reduced to 461 nm and 4 hr. 16 min.


AW149/AW189 Specifications

Type Designation



Commercial Designation



Maximum Passenger Seating Capacity


Maximum Range (nm)





Engine (2X)

GE CT7-2E1

GE CT7-2E1

Safran Helicopter Engines 


Safran Helicopter Engines 


Takeoff/Maximum Continuous Power (shp)





Maximum Gross Weight (lb.)



Usable Fuel Capacity (gal.)




Main Rotor Diameter

47 ft. 11 in.

Tail Rotor Diameter (ft.)



Fuselage/Overall Length*

57 ft. 8 in.

47.9 ft./57 ft. 8 in.

Fuselage Width (ft.)



 Fuselage/Overall Height*


13.3 ft./16 ft. 7 in.

 *With rotors turning

CT7-2E1 Engine

Leonardo states that the CT7-2E1’s engine ratings include a takeoff power of 1,983 shp—which can be maintained for 5 min—and a maximum continuous power of 1,870 shp. According to GE, the -2E1 is based on the company’s T700 series of engines, a series that also powers the Leonardo’s AW101, Bell’s 214ST and 525 and Sikorsky’s S-70 and S-92. Specific to the CT7-2E1 variant, GE Aviation describes it as “an advanced civil version of the T700-701D” engine. In addition to the -2E1’s fuel efficiency, the benefits of the CT7 series’ that are promoted by the manufacturer include its performance and ability to operate in “harsh environments.”

Aneto-1K Engine

Described by Leonardo as being in the 2,500-shp class of turboshaft engines, the Aneto-1K engine increases the takeoff and maximum continuous power limitations to 2,450 shp and 2,300 shp, respectively. The engine is based on Safran’s RTM322—a military engine that the company developed with Rolls-Royce—which it shares a type certificate with. According to the common EASA type certificate data sheet (TCDS) for the RTM322 and Aneto-1 series, the both engines are “two-spool turboshaft engines of modular design” that are controlled by a dual-channel full authority digital engine control (FADEC) system. The components of the Aneto-1K include “a three-stage axial and single-stage centrifugal compressor,” an axial-flow gas generator turbine and axial-flow power turbine that both have two stages and which connect to “a forward-mounted output drive by a transmission shaft” and a reverse-flow annular combustion chamber. Safran states that the gas generator turbine incorporates single-crystal blades—while also promoting its high-temperature performance and “enhanced life margins and power growth”—with the power turbine noted for the longevity benefits of its low temperature. The engine’s compressors—which have inlet guide vanes—can accelerate to maximum power from flight idle “in less than 3 sec.,” while the dual-channel FADEC system is promoted for its “advanced functionalities” as well as the benefits that it provides with respect to flight comfort and reduced pilot workload.

Named for the highest mountain in Europe’s Pyrenees Mountains, the performance benefits of the Aneto-1K include a HOGE at the airframe’s MGW “up to 6,000 ft.,” while also enabling operations between -50C and 50C. When compared to “similarly rated engines,” Safran promotes that Aneto series as having the ability to provide 25% more thermal power because of its power-to-volume ratio, expanding the “mission capabilities” of equipped helicopters. The manufacturer also states that the engine series is of particular value to operators utilizing their helicopters in high-altitude and hot-weather conditions, with those types of operators including those in the markets identified above, as well as aerial firefighting and military transport.


According to Leonardo, the safety of AW189 operations is further enhanced by the fact that the main gearbox is capable of running without oil for 50 min. Supplementing the safety benefits of main gearbox’s “dry-run capability” is the “structural crashworthiness” that is integrated into “the design of the airframe, fuel system and seats,” as well as the fact that the windscreen is reinforced and “critical” controls are placed in an “optimum position.” The safety of ground operations is improved by the height of the main rotor and the clearance that it provides, as well as by the standard camera that is installed in the tail fin, the latter of which increases crew situational awareness. Also part of the previously mentioned typical offshore completion are emergency floats that have capabilities up to sea state 6, as well as external life rafts. Options promoted by Leonardo for this type of operator include a cargo hook, direction finder, extended-range fuel system that features pressure refueling and single or dual hoist. At the time the type was certified, AgustaWestland stated that the AW189’s configuration was “fully compliant with the requirements for offshore oil and gas operations and includes all relevant kits and avionic features to perform [that] role.” Additionally, the manufacturer noted that the airframe’s flight envelope allowed for operations “in demanding and harsh environments from initial entry into service.”

For medevac and SAR operators, many of the same options are promoted—such as the direction finder—while additional airframe capabilities and outfitting include bubble cabin windows, an external loudspeaker, heavy-duty landing gear; a searchlight, belly-mounted swiveling light for the rescue hoist and taxiing lights; and a rescue hoist camera. The helicopter’s built-in auxiliary power unit (APU) enables corporate and private operators to condition the cabin without the need for the rotors to be turning, while the presence of an APU for medevac and SAR operations is noted as allowing “the continued operation” of medical devices, radios and rescue equipment—the hoist and lights—while airborne. According to the manufacturer, a number of “kits” have been certified which include much of the avionics technologies and SAR equipment noted above, while also allowing the operation of the helicopter at an 18,959-lb. maximum weight in order to increase the amount of payload that can be carried. Supplementing the SAR variant’s increased maximum weight, the fuel system is also noted as having a greater capacity.

On Dec. 23, 2014, Finmeccanica-AgustaWestland—another corporate predecessor to Leonardo—announced the certification of the SAR variant of the AW189, a certification which allowed the delivery of the first airframe to Bristow to operate on behalf of Britain’s Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA). Although the certification of the SAR variant took place in late 2014 and the first delivery of that variant to Bristow took place in January 2015, it was not until March 31, 2017, that Bristow-operated AW189s began SAR operations for the MCA from a base at Lee-On-Solent in southern England. That entry into service was delayed by over a year because of delays related to the Full Ice Protection System (FIPS), a requirement of the MCA “because the helicopters are regularly called upon to perform mountain rescues.”

Finmeccanica-AgustaWestland announced on Sept. 28, 2015, that the AW189’s Limited Ice Protection System (LIPS) had been approved by EASA, with the company noting that it was the first helicopter in its weight category to have its ice-protection system certified. Promoted as enhancing the airframe’s “all-weather capabilities,” the LIPS allows for “flight within a known and defined envelope of icing conditions provided that the capability to descend into a known band of positive temperature is available throughout the intended route, typical of conditions encountered, for example, over the North Sea.” Available as an option for the AW189, the components of the system include a heated windshield, ice detectors and an ice-accretion meter and a supercooled larger droplet (SLD) marker. While the LIPS does incorporate those components—and the standard airframe is equipped with an engine air intake heating system—it “does not require heated rotor blades and associated equipment.” From a performance perspective, the “performance and procedures for Cat. A operations” are retained, while the AW189 “has only limited restrictions in terms of low temperature and ice presence during IFR operations.” Because of its cost and weight, the system is described as being especially well-suited for offshore energy services, other passenger transport and SAR operators.

Less than a year after the LIPS was certified by EASA, the AW189’s FIPS was also certified by the regulator. That approval was announced by Leonardo-Finmeccanica—yet another corporate predecessor to Leonardo—on July 11, 2016, with the airframe also being the first helicopter in the super-medium class to have that capability. The certification followed winter flight testing in Northern Europe and North America that lasted three years, and which evaluated system components that include the electrically heated main and tail rotor blades, an ice detection system and heated windscreens. From an operational perspective, the system is described as being “fully automatic once switched on by the pilot,” a feature that is promoted as having pilot workload benefits.


Beyond the equipped engines and the improved maximum altitude performance noted above, the changes made to Safran-powered AW189s include an increased MTOW and a decreased usable fuel capacity. As is noted in the table above, the MTOW is increased by 662 lb. to 18,960 lb., while the usable fuel capacity is lowered by 120 gal. to 559 gal. Although it has a decreased fuel capacity, because the Aneto-1K engines are more powerful than the CT7-2E1 engines, the helicopter is promoted for its performance in high-altitude and hot-weather conditions. The types of operations that Leonardo specifically markets the AW189K for are essentially the same as those that were discussed above and include aerial firefighting, offshore energy services, parapublic and VIP transport.


From a design perspective, the AW149 is considered to be a militarized derivative of Leonardo’s AW139 that, in comparison, has different engines, an enlarged fuselage and a higher gross weight, among other differences. Specific differences found in the AW149—in comparison to the AW139—include a “heavier fuselage [that is] more suited to military payloads,” as well as a drive train that has increased power. The features of the helicopter that are promoted to operators include the size of the airframe itself (and its ability to enable “confined-area operations”), the inclusion of dual electric and hydraulic systems, the handling benefits of the “fully articulated main and tail rotors” and the ability of the “robust undercarriage” and ground clearance to enable operations on rough terrain.

Supplementing the avionic equipment noted above, a variety of role and utility equipment—as well as weapons systems—are available for the AW149. With respect to the latter, an observation and targeting system is available, as are a variety of other weapons that can be mounted either internally or externally. The internal weapons include a pair of machine guns and sniper rifles, while external weapons such as an air-to-ground missile launcher, gun pods and rocket launchers are available, the latter of which can be guided or unguided. Those and other weapons—including air-to-air missiles—as well as the targeting system, enable the airframe to be used as both an armed escort and a close-air-support platform. Role equipment available for the AW149 includes ballistic protection for the cabin and cockpit, crashworthy self-sealing fuel tanks, formation lights and a searchlight that are NVG compatible, an overwater kit with flotation and life rafts and a wire-strike protection system. One of the pieces of utility equipment available are foldable seats—which are also crashworthy—with additional options including the previously mentioned cargo hook, a FIPS and an internally located auxiliary fuel tank. With respect to supporting special forces operations, those forces able to be deployed two at a time per side using the fast-roping system, while the aforementioned rescue hoist—which is electric and can be of a single or dual type—can be utilized to recover such forces when the helicopter is hovering.

Program Status

At the time of its certification in 2014, AgustaWestland noted that the first AW189 production line would be located in Vergiate, Italy, with a second to follow at the company’s UK facility in the Yeovil, which are where production remains. That latter facility was initially meant to build Bristow’s AW189 that are operated for the UK MCA, with the facility subsequently producing airframes “to meet the global demand for SAR-configured AW189s.”


  • AWIN Article Archives
  • Leonardo AW149/AW189 Commercial Materials
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  • Safran Helicopter Engines Commercial Materials (Aneto Series/Aneto-1K)
  • EASA TCDS (AW189)
  • EASA TCDS (RTM322/Aneto-1 Series)
  • FAA TCDS (CT7-2E1)
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