Leonardo Inaugurates A New State-Of-The-Art Helicopter Training Academy In The United States

Leonardo Helicopter Training Academy
FThe flight simulator’s hangar of the Leonardo Helicopter Training Academy in Philadelphia and, in the box, the maintenance training hangar. (Photo: Leonardo)

The new Helicopter Training Academy will provide training for both pilots and maintenance crews on the AW119, AW169, AW139 models and, in a near future, the new AW609 tiltrotor.

Leonardo announced that a new state-of-the-art Helicopter Training Academy has been inaugurated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 29, 2021. The Academy, which was first announced in 2019, is located in the company’s campus in northeast Philadelphia that also includes production, support and administrative functions for the United States.

“We purposely co-located the Academy next to our main production, support, and administrative offices because we wanted to not only provide cutting-edge training with modern technology to our customers, but also give them an inside view of our organization, our culture, and how our product is made and maintained with a constant emphasis on quality and safety” said Bill Hunt, CEO of AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corporation and Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters US.

The training centre, which mirrors the functions and services of the other Leonardo Academy located in Sesto-Calende, Italy, is part of an USD 80 million investment in United States operations that will provide training services for a growing demand and need for pilots, cabin crews and maintenance technicians across North and South America.

The first Leonardo Helicopter Training Academy opened in Sesto-Calende in 2006 and in its inaugural year provided training to 600 students, which increased by the 2018-2020 period to an average of 10,000 annually across the company’s similar facilities in the United Kingdom, Poland and Malaysia as well as other authorized training centres.

Among its services, the Philadelphia Helicopter Training Academy will provide ground, air and virtual training, leveraging also simulator capabilities jointly developed by Leonardo and CAE and operated by their Rotorsim joint venture, initially established in 2003 to provide synthetic training solutions for AW109 Power and AW139 helicopter operators and later expanded to include AW109 LUH (Light Utility Helicopter), AW109N Nexus, AW189, AW169 and NH90 training.

Alessandro Profumo, Leonardo CEO, said: “In our sector, only organizations with a clear vision, strategy and consistency in execution can aim for a sustainable long-term business and become strategic assets for their countries. We want to be regarded as a partner, not just a supplier, by continuing to ensure an outstanding service and training experience. And we integrate these capabilities into our unique helicopter offer with the ambition of becoming the world leader in the sector. Advanced simulation, augmented reality, artificial intelligence – all embedded today in our US Academy – are examples of this vision. It can leverage on game-changing technologies we are deploying and on investments in the deep digitalization of our offer and processes.”

You can find a tour of the facility in the video here below:

Specifically, the Philadelphia Academy features training services for the AW119, AW169, AW139 models and will also be home to the training services for global customers of the world’s first tiltrotor set to receive civil certification, the AW609. The company reports that customers are already training in the new centre.

Regarding the training for the AW609 in Philadelphia, it looks like it might start in a not very distant future. Last month, the fourth AW609 (AC4), fully representative of the final production configuration, was shipped from Leonardo’s Philadelphia facility, where it was built, to Genoa’s harbor in Italy and later flown to Leonardo Helicopters’ headquarters in Cascina Costa.

The aircraft, initially developed together with Bell and now fully owned by Leonardo, is scheduled to remain there to support the final stage of program testing ahead of civil certification, as well as customer-dedicated demonstration activities for European operators and other potential users worldwide. The industrialization, customer service and training service of the AW609 program is currently intensifying in Philadelphia through the new training academy and a new final assembly hangar.

The Academy’s goal is to provide ground, in-flight and virtual training to student pilots, with an array of digital courses, flight activities, simulation and mission training available to meet any mission profile, and comprehensive maintenance training to the technicians in their very own wing of the Academy that also comes equipped with a large array of maintenance training devices and displays.

Leonardo Helicopter Training Academy
The AW609 simulator and its cockpit. (Photo: Leonardo)

Among the features of the Training Academy in the US, Leonardo mentioned :

  • 10 multi-media classrooms equipped with the latest technology, designed to provide interactive 2D/3D graphic content that allows for simulating and engaging learning and instruction.
  • Three maintenance simulators (one AW139, one AW119 and soon one AW609) to provide up close familiarity with all aspects of the aircraft through hands-on experience for students (both technicians and pilots) to learn in the classroom and then practice on the trainers.
  • Two full-flight motion simulators (one AW139 and one AW169/AW609 with roll-on/rolloff capability), jointly developed by Leonardo and CAE, to provide realistic training for specific missions, including off-shore, law enforcement, EMS and passenger transport. Additionally, an empty bay exists to allow the addition of a third full flight simulator to be added in the future to be based on demand.
  • Special amenities for the students to relax or exercise while taking a break from the training.

According to the press release, this one-of-a-kind Academy strengthens the role of Leonardo as the only helicopter OEM (Original equipment manufacturer) that has an own capability of designing, developing, delivering, qualifying, supporting and operating the fullest range of Training Systems, with certified OEM-data into the simulated environment.

Gian Piero Cutillo, Leonardo Helicopters MD, added: “Our new US Training Academy will help to serve the largest market for helicopters in the global industry, and will be part of a continued process to guarantee customer proximity and expand our range of offer. We are committed to devoting every possible effort to continue to build a training culture as part of our value proposition, a true benefit of all our stakeholders, customers, end-users.”

The global helicopter market is continuously expanding and expected to reach USD 68.34 billion by 2027, as published by Fortune Business Insights in its Helicopter Market 2020-2027 report, showing a 20 billion increase since the market value of USD 48.19 billion in 2019. Airbus also predicted that a huge demand for around 22,000 new rotorcrafts is expected in the next 20 years. If we focus on the North American helicopter market, currently the largest in the world, it is expected to grow from USD 14.41 billion in 2019 to about USD 19 billion in 2027.

Since 1980, Philadelphia has been the headquarters for the helicopter business of Leonardo in the United States. Located at Northeast Philadelphia Airport (KPNE) just minutes outside the Central Business District, the facility has grown over the last 40 years from a basic service center to the Leonardo’s US Industrial Center of Excellence for helicopters. Leonardo is committed to providing leading, comprehensive support and training services to deliver unprecedented benefits to customers in terms of safety, quality, effectiveness, cost, and sustainability as a cornerstone of Leonardo’s Be Tomorrow 2030 Strategic Plan, according to the press release.

Leonardo’s efforts have also been rewarded as, for the third year in a row, the company ranked in first place in the turbine category for the helicopter manufacturer product survey organized by the American magazine Professional Pilot concerning the support provided to helicopter operators by manufacturing companies. This is a scientific survey involving operators who buy and use helicopters around the world and who evaluate OEMs on seven different aspects of the support received.

As emerged last month from the survey, Leonardo ranked first in all support categories, with an overall score of 8.64 out of 10 in 244 responses from the customers. In the ranking, Leonardo is followed by the American manufacturers Bell and Sikorsky and, slightly more distanced, Airbus.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.