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Leonardo, Pratt & Whitney complete SAF flight of a PT6 powered AW139

December 7, 2023  By Helicopters Staff

A PT6 engine for the first time flies on 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel at Leonardo’s facility in Italy. (Photo: Leonardo)

Leonardo and Pratt & Whitney Canada on December 7 announced the completion of the first flight for a AW139 intermediate twin helicopter, powered by PT6C-67C engines, using what they describe as 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

The flight and ground tests, lasting 75 minutes, were performed at Leonardo’s facility in Cascina Costa di Samarate, Italy, on November 21, to evaluate engine performance with multiple power variation and other systems. The test showed what Leonardo describes as an outstanding response to the new fuel with no significant differences when compared to the use of Jet A1 fuel.

The test marked a first for both Leonardo’s helicopters and the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engine family. Earlier this year, in-service AW139 helicopters carried out flights with SAF, blended with traditional jet fuel under the current certification standards, in Japan, Malaysia, and more recently in the UAE. All main civil-certified types within the Leonardo’s helicopter product range are certified for operations using SAF with a blended ratio of up to 50 per cent.

The 100 per cent SAF demonstration flight of the AW139 is a further testament to the outstanding design and performance of the aircraft and its systems, ranking as the most successful helicopter in its class with an unrivalled and growing impact. There are more than 1,100 AW139s in service worldwide and almost 4 million flight hours logged to date.


“With this latest result we are demonstrating how we can support the rapid evolution of sustainability requirements in aviation as the industry aims at a greater use of SAF in operations,” said Gian Piero Cutillo of Leonardo Helicopters. “We did so with the world-class AW139 testifying that this technology allows more sustainable operations keeping the same level of high performance, significantly contributing to lower CO2 emissions.”

The AW139 is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67C engines with each engine producing 1,700 shaft horsepower (shp) thermodynamic.

“This first flight effectively demonstrates engine functionality and is an important part of our long-standing efforts to support the development of future specifications for 100 per cent SAF, a core part of our sustainable propulsion strategy,” said Maria Della Posta, President, Pratt & Whitney Canada. “This is the first time a PT6 engine has flown using 100 per cent SAF. This milestone builds on its unrivalled legacy of success and underlines how the engine family can contribute to a more sustainable future in aviation. Since entering the market 60 years ago, the PT6 engine family has clocked more than 500 million flight hours, 8.3 million of which were on PT6C turboshaft engines.”


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