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Leonardo: The need for speed

Sponsored Content | May 9, 2024

Estimated reading time 6 minutes, 58 seconds.

Designed around three pillars — time, patient access, and availability — Leonardo continues to showcase its program enhancements and aircraft customization for emergency medical services (EMS) in the United States.

With these pillars in mind, Leonardo has propelled forward with consistent investment in program enhancements to grow the thriving EMS field throughout the U.S., with its top aircraft: the AW109 series, AW169, AW139 and soon, the AW09.

Leonardo has the fastest product line in the industry, with all its certified products having a VNE (never-exceed speed) of over 155 knots (287 kilometers per hour). This factor is vital in providing accommodations for patient transportation — from the point of pickup to drop-off — in record time. 

Leonardo crafts each helicopter model for easy accessibility to the patient by the complete medical team. The company is the only manufacturer designing single-engine and twin-engine platforms that permit full patient access with no protrusion into the cockpit.

Whether it’s the AW09, AW139 or AW169, Leonardo’s modular design allows for simple reconfiguration based on the type of mission that customers respond to.

For example, Travis County’s AW169 functionality can be used for search-and-rescue (SAR) missions. However, the medical team can quickly reconfigure the same aircraft to ensure maximum flexibility and efficiency for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) transport.

EMS operators need to be ready at a moment’s notice, and over the last 10 years, Leonardo has worked to ensure that its support network in the United States, including parts, training, service center, and blade repair, is conveniently located close to its customers. This allows for quick turnaround when a maintenance issue occurs.


The AW09, under development, is a unique single-engine helicopter with a twin-engine size cabin, allowing the operator to maintain inexpensive operations. A cabin in parallel with a twin-engine helicopter will enable them to be much more capable from a patient transport/patient advocacy perspective. In addition, this aircraft is the only single-engine allowing complete patient access. 

Moreover, the AW09 provides operators with a versatile and reliable asset that is ready to tackle a range of primary and secondary EMS missions. The helicopter’s compact footprint enables operations from unprepared surfaces and tight landing zones.

AW109 series (Trekker and GrandNew)

With a recommended cruise speed of 155 kts (187 km/h), the AW109’s best-in-class speed allows rapid patient transport from the incident scene or hospital to the inbound hospital. The aircraft includes a state-of-the-art avionics package that comes standard, and is equipped with synthetic vision, traffic avoidance, and helicopter terrain awareness and warning
system (HTAWS).


The AW169 stays true to its value of meeting the most stringent requirements — today and into the future. It continues to provide all new capabilities to operators looking for an ideal combination of light helicopter cost with higher category performance, payload, and cabin space, combined with comprehensive and ever-growing support and training services.

The performance increase packages, certified in late 2021, deliver extraordinary performance in all conditions for all applications. This makes the AW169 the helicopter with the best power-to-weight ratio in its class, in addition to offering state-of-the-art technologies such as auxiliary power unit (APU) mode, advanced avionics suite, run-dry gearbox, advanced SAR modes, and health and usage monitoring system (HUMS).

The AW169 offers open cabin architecture, accommodating many EMS interior designs with full body patient access, whether positioned longitudinally or laterally. The type is also available with all three undercarriage options (fixed and retractable landing gear, as well as skids) — a unique option in the market. Leonardo is also working to certify a maximum gross weight (MGW) increase of up to 5.1 US tons (4,626 kilograms) for the skidded variant.


The AW139 is the benchmark helicopter for multirole flexibility in terms of configuration and performance capabilities. This aircraft can install Bambi Buckets or belly tanks for water bombing while simultaneously being able to transport up to 15 passengers and complete SAR missions. Its rescue hoist is compatible with firefighting configuration, allowing simultaneous capability for in-flight rescue.

Many operators worldwide are successfully operating the AW139 for fire and rescue operations, such as the Los Angeles Fire Department, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, Italian Fire Brigades, operators in South Korea and Japan, and more. 

For EMS and SAR operations, response speed is critical. The ability to react, locate and respond to an emergency with the appropriate resources can be the difference between life and death. Leonardo continues to rise to the challenge by providing capable and sustainable aircraft for its customers.

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