intro aw139.jpg


Leonardo AW139

Entering service in 2003, the Leonardo AW139 is a medium twin-engine helicopter developed by Bell Agusta Aerospace; a now defunct joint venture between Bell Helicopter Textron and AgustaWestland. Originally named the AB139 to signify the venture, the helicopter was renamed in 2006 to the AW139 when Bell withdrew from the project in 2005 and AugustaWestland subsequently bought out Bell’s shares in the program.


The AW139, powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PTC6-67C engines, is now known for having one of the largest passenger cabins in its class. It features a Honeywell Primus Epic fully integrated avionics system and a four-axis digital automatic flight control system with auto hoover and fill digital electronic engine control (FADEC), which enhances handling qualities. Its best-in-class power reserve and power-to-weight ratio provide Category A performance capabilities, allowing the aircraft to continue to fly safely in the event of engine failure.

With the largest passenger cabin in its class and space for up to 15 passengers and two pilots, the AW139 is suitable for a wide-range of operational uses. In a VIP/corporate capacity, the AW139 is an attractive aircraft for those looking for plenty of space, a smooth ride and quiet environment. In an EMS and SAR capacity, the AW139 offers large internal volume with room for two to four stretchers and up to five seats. Its large sliding doors provide unobstructed access to a quick and easy reconfigurable, flat-floor cabin for loading and unloading of patients on the ground and during hoisting operations.

For offshore operations, the AW139 offers a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 6,400 to 7,000kg (14,110 to 15,430lb). MTOW was increased to 7,000kg from 6,800kg in 2015; the additional weight capacity comes in the form of a retrofit, which enhances equipment and reduces weight. The increased gross weight (IGW) kit also increases flight radius of up to 165nm with 12 passengers. Typical offshore configuration includes emergency floats and rafts, cabin liners with sound proofing, crashworthy passenger seats and an adaptive anti-vibration system. 

In 2011, a military-configured variant was introduced to the market. The AW139M features mission ready equipment, including military communications, radar, electro-optic / infra-red (EO/IR) devise, defensive aids, internal weapons, armour protection and other suitable equipment.


Worldwide, the AW139 operating fleet stood at 898, as of January 2019. Asia, which is base to 22% of the operating fleet, is the most popular region for the series, where Japan, China and Malaysia are home to relatively large AW139 fleets. Western Europe falls just short of that with 21% of the operating fleets. However, by country, the US is home to the largest fleet of AW139s with approximately 10% of the fleet.


Age-wise, the US has the most mature fleet with an average year of manufacture year of 2011, while China has the youngest fleet with an average year of manufacture of 2015; reflective of Leonardo’s marketing efforts in China. Much like other helicopters utilized for O&G operations, delivery of the AW130 starkly declined after 2014, coinciding with the downturn of the O&G market.  As of January 2019, almost 3% of the AW139 fleet were for sale. Over half of those for sale are configured for VIP/corporate use, attributed to the aircraft’s spacious interior. Over a quarter are configured for multi-mission use and 19% are configured for EMS use.


Average asking prices of the AW139 are stabilizing. The average price in December 2018 was US$7.7M, slightly down from December 2017 when the price was US$7.7M and much lower than the average asking price in December 2016 — US$8.3M. Lower average asking prices, and subsequently lower inventory values, have led to more transactions in the AW139 market.

Average days on market (DOM) have decreased from 2016. In December 2018, the average DOM was 514 days; below average for most helicopters, including competitors — Sikorsky S76C++, Airbus H155 and the Bell 412EP. 

When comparing the AW139 with its main competitors, the AW139 boasts a more powerful engine with higher horsepower. Performance wise, it’s range is farther, and it’s speed is faster than competitors. Although the AW139 has a higher annual fixed cost than the S76C++, H155 and Bell 412EP, the hourly variable cost — considering speed and range — is lower. The AW139’s cabin capacity has a significant amount of more space than its competitors. With 282 cubic-feet of cabin volume and 120 cubic feet of baggage area, the AW139 has more space for passengers and more space to reconfigure the cabin to make it suitable for other mission types. The Airbus H155 follows in terms of space, with 225 cubic feet of cabin volume and 88 cubic feet of baggage area.

The market’s demand and preference for the AW139 (manufactured from 2004-present) is reflected in its total operating fleet number of 898, compared with the S76C++’s fleet of 209 (manufactured from 2006-2012), the H155’s fleet of 146 (manufactured from 2003-present), the Bell 412EP of 551 (manufactured from 1994-2013) and the Bell 412EPI (manufactured from 2014-present). The Airbus H160, expected to enter service later this year, is set to replace the H155. Although for now, the AW139 has clearly established itself as the medium twin-engine market leader.

ASQ, 2018, Pre-ownedBowen Zhang