Initial capabilities will be for initial and recurrent pilot training in the AW139, AW169, and the forthcoming tiltrotor, the AW609. Maintenance training will also be offered in AW139, AW119, and AW609. The training facility includes 10 classrooms, virtual learning centers, virtual and augmented reality, and full-motion simulation. Initial goals call for 1,000 students a year.
The $80 million training expansion took six years to develop and is the latest investment in the Italian manufacturer’s U.S. base of operations. What began as more or less a service center has morphed into a complete engineering, testing, manufacturing, and now training facility. “Philadelphia is now a true center of excellence and not just a manufacturing site,” said Gian Piero Cutillo, the managing director of Leonardo Helicopters.
The expansion has been a long time coming for Leonardo Helicopters, as the United States represents its biggest market. The decision to expand in Philadelphia reflects the market size, a desire to be closer to the customer base, and partially an acknowledgement of the importance of the forthcoming AW609 program. The new Philadelphia training facility will be the only place pilots and maintenance technicians can learn to fly and maintain the tiltrotor.
Roger Woods, chief flight instructor of Leonardo Helicopters, pointed to the company’s high-caliber instruction and FAA-Industry Training Standards acceptance as key selling points.