Leonardo has committed to grow the UK’s end-to-end rotary wing industrial base should it be successful in putting forward its twin-engine multi-role military AW149 for the UK MoD’s New Medium Helicopter (NMH) requirement.
Should the AW149 be chosen, the company has committed to the establishment of an additional final assembly line of the platform at the “Home of British Helicopters” – its Yeovil site. The NMH campaign will enable Leonardo to support and grow the UK’s end-to-end rotary wing industrial base, including the company’s specialist design skills, which will be essential to future UK participation in next-generation platforms.
Leonardo has an existing AW149 structure manufacturing capability at its Centre of Excellence for Aerostructures in Brindisi, Italy, which serves current in-service customers. The platform is currently assembled in Vergiate. Teams in Brindisi have welcomed their colleagues from Leonardo in Yeovil to showcase the engineering skills, and techniques used when building the latest-generation AW149. Highly qualified specialist engineers, some of which have benefited from Leonardo’s apprentice and trainee schemes, travelled from the UK to Italy for the training.
Former apprentice, Alex Weymouth, a mechanical fitter on the AW101 Merlin Mid-Life Sustainment Programme, recently visited the company’s southern Italy site to be trained by colleagues on the AW149. Weymouth said: “I was watching and learning new techniques on how to build the aircraft. As a modern, mostly composite aircraft, the skills and techniques differ slightly to the AW101. I’m excited to possibly work on the AW149 more in the future and hopefully at the Yeovil site.”
UK’s high level engineering skills would be transferred to AW149
Weymouth was joined by other colleagues, such as Joseph Eveleigh, who is also a mechanical/structural fitter and has been for the last four years. One of the main reasons Eveleigh went to Italy was to gather an understanding of the some operations which can be undertaken by the platform. He said: “I’m looking forward to learning about the new technologies and capabilities the AW149 has on-board.”
Matt Walters, a former apprentice and mechanical fitter, is accustomed to working on in-service UK MoD aircraft as his current role involves stripping and rebuilding aircraft, modifying the structure as required, and systems testing. These high-level engineering skills would complement and transfer to the AW149 if Leonardo is successful with the NMH campaign.
He said: “My recent training in Brindisi was organised to familiarise myself with the AW149 aircraft. The Brindisi site was focussed on the structural aspects of the AW149 airframe which I found extremely beneficial. This training also gave me the opportunity to interact with experienced operators with existing knowledge of the aircraft. I was able to ask questions about specific tools and equipment or how to best approach a certain job.”
Walters continued: “The AW149 is a high-tech, military aircraft and I am excited to be involved in the engineering behind it. Working on a new platform is great for my progression as an aircraft mechanical fitter, and allows me to broaden my knowledge and skills.”
Stuart Redman, who has been with Leonardo in Yeovil for almost 25 years, was able to develop his expertise further on the latest-generation AW149. He was shown how to conduct certain modifications on the aircraft. He said that if Leonardo was successful on the AW149 NMH campaign, “the aircraft could bring work into the company for years to come. It would mean a good progression for myself to work on a different platform.”