Re-Engined Leonardo AW09 Makes First Flight


The first flight took off from Mollis, Switzerland, on March 16.

Credit: Leonardo

Leonardo has conducted the first flight of its re-engined AW09 single-engine light helicopter. 

The first flight of the PS4 preseries aircraft from Mollis, Switzerland, on March 16 passed a major milestone toward achieving certification in late 2024. 

Leonardo said the flight lasted 20 min. and set all initial test objectives. It performed hovers at low altitude, spot turns, and straight and sideways flights up to 20 kt. as well as several landings and takeoffs. 

“The crew was very pleased with the behavior of the aircraft and looks forward to the opening of the flight envelope during the upcoming tests,” Leonardo said in a statement. 

Leonardo’s helicopters division and engineers at Switzerland’s Kopter Group have made major design revisions to the rotorcraft since Leonardo purchased the project in early 2020. 

Among the changes are the installation of the Fran Arriel 2K engine, new composite main rotor blades, and adjustments to the aerodynamics of the upper fuselage and vertical stabilizer. 

A second aircraft, PS5, is set to fly later this year. Both aircraft are planned to support the certification flying campaign. 

Leonardo believes the AW09, the first clean-sheet, single-engine light helicopter in more than 30 years, could achieve similar sales success as its best-selling AW139 medium helicopter. 

The OEM has already secured more than 50 preliminary sales contracts by converting letters of interest and memorandums of understanding for the 2.85-metric-ton aircraft. The company says this number could reach 200 by the time the aircraft is certified. 

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.