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Leonardo helicopter clears final FAA approval; bidding to replace Navy's training fleet

By ELLIE RUSHING | The Philadelphia Inquirer | Published: July 19, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — Leonardo’s TH-119 helicopter cleared its final certification hurdle from the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday, securing an essential requirement in the company’s bid to replace the United States Navy’s aging training helicopter fleet. If the Italian helicopter company secures the contract, hundreds of Philadelphia jobs could be sustained.

The company’s TH-119 is now the only single engine helicopter in nearly 30 years to meet current instrument flight rule requirements, the company announced. The single engine “allows pilots to operate the aircraft safely in low visibility and challenging weather conditions."

If selected by the Navy this fall, the company would produce up to 130 helicopters at its Northeast Philadelphia production facility, which would support and sustain the plant’s current 650 full-time jobs, said Margaret Rogalski a company spokesperson.

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“Today is a great day for both the Philadelphia worker and the Philadelphia economy,” said U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania’s second district in the press release. “This latest certification clearance will ultimately translate into much needed aircraft manufacturing jobs for Northeast Philadelphia and Southeast Pennsylvania.”

Single engine helicopters have existed for quite some time, but this is the first one that is certified by the FAA in nearly three decades. Military aircraft do not historically need FAA approval, but it is a core requirement of Navy’s training helicopter replacement program, also known as Advanced Helicopter Training System TH-73, Rogalski said.

The announcement adds to a period of growth for Leonardo. In March, it would add 166 hires to its then-560 employees at the Northeast Philadelphia Airport. It also announced plans to build a $65 million 60,000-square-foot training facility to train pilots, crews, and mechanics for Air Force helicopters and non-military customers.

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