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Poland’s first AW101 takes to the skies

Polish Navy AW101
Photo: Leonardo

The Polish Navy’s first AW101 helicopter (ZR285) achieved its maiden flight at Leonardo’s site in Yeovil, United Kingdom, on July 19.

According to the helicopter manufacturer, the flight demonstrated functional checks of the main airframe systems as well as the control system, and engine-handling checks were taken throughout to monitor the speed range of the aircraft.

The flight envelope will now be opened further with testing exploring the mission equipment fitted to the aircraft.

“This achievement is indicative of an integrated Leonardo team spanning the United Kingdom, Poland, and Italy. It highlights the strength in collaboration between Leonardo and the company’s main industrial presence in Poland, PZL-Świdnik which acts as the prime contractor,” Leonardo said in a release.

The Polish defense ministry ordered four AW101s and a comprehensive integrated logistics and training package in April 2019.

PZL-Świdnik, acts as the prime contractor and is responsible for the entire contract execution, and at Leonardo in Yeovil, the team assembles the aircraft. The AW101 will perform a range of missions for the Polish Navy including anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and combat search and rescue (CSAR).

“This was the first flight of the new AW101 ASW aircraft built here in Yeovil for the Polish military. The flight represents not only the culmination of the design and production processes but also the start of the thorough testing phase of the aircraft’s development. It is expected that there will be a total of 700 hours of flight testing across the four airframes which will confirm the correct function of each aircraft as well as develop and validate a broad range of mission and customer specific changes from the standard AW101,” Miles Barnett, senior test pilot at Leonardo Helicopters (UK), commented.

Photo: Leonardo

The AW101 for the Polish Naval Aviation Brigade will be equipped with an autopilot with SAR modes, data transmission system, tactical navigation system and protection and defence systems (passive and active). In addition, the AW101 will be equipped with a tactical radio, reconnaissance radar, an observation head (FLIR) and an S-mode transponder. It will also be equipped with a 12.7 mm machine gun.

What is more, searchlight and arrayed lights will ensure good visibility in all-weather conditions. For the SAR role, the aircraft will be optimized with medical and rescue equipment, including two winches and a system for carrying loads on the external suspension. In addition, the AW101 fleet will be equipped with an emergency float system, life rafts, and a cold climate survival kit.