PICTURE: Third AW169 prototype takes to the skies

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AgustaWestland's third AW169 prototype began flight testing on 23 November. The 4.5t light intermediate twin made a 35min flight from the airframer's base in Cascina Costa, Italy.

A fourth prototype is scheduled to fly early next year, says the Anglo-Italian company, adding that the programme remains on schedule for certification and service entry in 2014.

The 10-passenger AW169 was launched in July 2010 to fill a gap for a lighter helicopter than the 6t AW139 and the 10t AW189. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210-powered aircraft is also positioned as a challenger to Eurocopter's Dauphin and EC145 lines.

third aw169 prototype agustawestland

 AgustaWestland

The first aircraft made its maiden flight in May and was joined two months later by the second prototype. To date, the duo have completed more than 100 flying hours, says AgustaWestland.

The third prototype will undergo climatic chamber tests; cold weather trials; hot and high trials; Category A performance tests; and certification of optional kits. The model's retractable landing gear will also be put through its paces.

Meanwhile, AgustaWestland says it has accumulated over 800h of flight testing for the AW189 programme on four prototype aircraft, including two “hybrids” based on its military AW149. Two further helicopters will join the flight-test fleet in the coming months as it targets certification in mid-2013.