Leonardo celebrates 50th anniversary of A109
By Naomi Szeben
Leonardo celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the A109’s inaugural flight. It was the first completely Italian-designed twin-engine helicopter.
Two and a half years after the first feasibility studies, the A109 took flight on August 4, 1971. Piloted by Ottorino Lancia, the A109 demonstrated a reduced level of vibrations, noise reduction, and easy manoeuvrability. Tests and studies continued on the prototype, to certify it. In September 1971, a report was generated, including drawings for the final version of the A109, which would form the basis for future developments.
The A109 was the first Italian-designed helicopter to receive certification from the RAI (Italian Aeronautical Register). Previously, the procedures were related to models already certified abroad or derived prototypes. Certification for the A109 was also requested from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The first A109 was equipped with innovative features like a four-blade articulated main rotor, a semi-rigid two-blade tail rotor and a lightweight fuselage and tail boom.
The certification was obtained in 1975, both by RAI and by the FAA. In the certification documents, the A109 was described as an eight-seat (including the pilot) aircraft with a total maximum weight of 2,400 kg and an empty weight of 1,400 kg. Its main rotor had four fully articulated blades; a semi-rigid two-blade tail rotor; two Allison 250-C20 engines, dual engine power of 692 SHP and single engine power of 400 shp and a VNE speed of 168 knots.
Thanks to the A109, Leonardo switched from producing licensed products to its own helicopters. The FAA certification allowed access to the American market, further strengthening the company’s position in the world of OEM leaders of rotary-wing aircraft.
The final A109 assembly lines took place in the Agusta plants at Cascina Costa and Frosinone, respectively, for the civil versions and versions intended for defence. The modularity of the aircraft allowed production activities to be divided among all groups within the companies. Thanks to this approach, the manufacture management had the necessary flexibility to respond effectively to the production plans that adjusted it to a growing market and to meet customers’ needs.
Deliveries began in 1976, to government customers, both in Italy and abroad. Most of the Italian institutional operators, from the Italian Army to the Police, Carabinieri, Guardia di Finanza and the Civil Protection Department, used the A109 in different configurations and for different missions.