Franco-Swiss company Léman Aviation has signed a preliminary sales contract for 10 Leonardo AW09s — the manufacturer’s upcoming light single-engine helicopter.
The contract brings the AW09 into France, with Léman Aviation also in discussions to become a distributor for Leonardo Helicopters.
“The AW09 continues to generate a very positive response from all geographies worldwide as the program development progresses,” said Gian Piero Cutillo, managing director of Leonardo Helicopters, in a press release. “Rotorcraft companies highly welcome the AW09 for its outstanding characteristics and multirole capabilities that represent a significant evolution compared to existing products in this category.”
Leonardo said it will have received preliminary sales contracts for 80 AW09s by the end of this year.
Léman offers personal and professional helicopter management services, sales and acquisitions, helicopter operations and charter management, maintenance and training. Earlier this year, the company bought French operator Alpes Hélicoptères. Based in the alpine town of Annecy — near the Swiss border — the company was established seven years ago with a focus on passenger transport.
Alpes Hélicoptères currently has a fleet of two Bell 407s, which Nicolas Miras, co-founder of Léman Aviation, said was well-suited to the passenger-carrying role thanks to its large cabin.
He described the AW09 as the “state-of-the-art of this kind of large single-engine aircraft,” and a natural fit for Alpes Hélicoptères’ operations. He described the operator as a “boutique airline, where we provide the highest service level,” with a focus on passenger comfort.
In addition to the size of the AW09’s cabin, Miras said the aircraft’s five-bladed rotor would help ensure comfortable flight in the mountains.
“Between the French Riviera and the Alps region, we tend to have some long flights — one hour, one and a half hours or more — so having the comfort of the spacious cabin and the five blades is definitely an advantage,” he said. “On top of this, state-of-the-art avionics and all the dual systems and so on will make the machine very interesting for our customers.”
Miras said Léman is keen to increase the uptake of the fractional ownership model within the helicopter market, thanks to the experience he and co-founder Vincent Pollet gained while working in the fixed-wing sector.
“We truly believe that if we bring some corporate strategy and practices from the [fixed-wing] aviation world towards the helicopter world, there might be a way to industrialize the approach and to provide a service level [that’s] a bit different and a bit better,” he said.
Alpes Hélicoptères already offers fractional ownership, finding success in the model thanks to the particular needs of customers.
“There were some industrial key people in the region who had that mobility need and [Alpes] developed the fractional ownership model – and this was key for us,” said Miras. “We truly believe that the integration of the [AW]09 within Alpes Hélicoptères will be a leverage to industrialize and develop that fractional ownership model with a brand new machine, with state-of-the-art technology, and providing that additional experience to the customer.”
The target date for first delivery has not been announced, but Miras said the first AW09s acquired by Alpes will be integrated into its fleet to ensure a smooth entry into service in France.
“And then we have quite a number of [sales] prospects within the Alpes region and the French Riviera, who have been eyeing the machine for years,” said Miras.
A full-scale mockup of the AW09 is on display at Leonardo’s booth at European Rotors, taking place this year in Madrid, Spain.