The first Russian-built AgustaWestland AW139 has begun flying, bringing the AgustaWestland/Russian Helicopters joint venture HeliVert a step closer to its goal of producing up to 20 of the medium helicopters a year for the Russian market.

The first flight, announced today (Jan. 15), actually took place on Dec. 19 following the aircraft’s rollout the day before. The aircraft flew for 37 min. and completed a series of tests for Russian aviation authorities. It is now involved in a short flight test program before delivery to the as-yet-to-be-announced customer.

AgustaWestland and Russian Helicopters announced the HeliVert joint venture during the Farnborough Airshow in 2008. Production of AW139s began in 2012, and the two companies plan to build 15-20 aircraft in Moscow each year with the line employing some 100 personnel. Flight tests of a second aircraft are expected to begin in February.

The Helivert facility, located at Russian Helicopters’ main facility in the Tomlino District of Moscow, was built for the AW139 production program and is the third assembly line for the popular medium helicopter. The others are located in Italy and in Philadelphia. AgustaWestland has sold more than 650 AW139s across the world, and the aircraft now accounts for around 40% of the company’s order intake.