Leonardo Grows Stronger in U.S. EMS Helicopter Market with New Contracts for AW119Kx and AW169

Leonardo announces a further expansion of its presence in the U.S. emergency medical service (EMS) market with two new contracts announced at the Air Medical Transport Conference. Contracts include two instrument flight rules (IFR) AW119Kx single-engines and one AW169 light intermediate helicopter for Life Link III and one AW169 for Intermountain Life Flight.

These latest sales continue to grow the share of Leonardo helicopters in the North American EMS market, which now totals over 100 across a fleet of AW119s, AW109s, AW169s and AW139s. Globally, there are over 650 Leonardo search-and-rescue and emergency medical service helicopters saving lives every day in more than 50 countries. To date, around 360 AW119s and 250 AW169s have been sold to customers across the globe to perform a wide range of roles, including EMS, firefighting, law enforcement, passenger transport, offshore transport, training and government/military duties. 

Life Link III’s aircraft will deliver emergency medical services to patients in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It is the first commercial EMS Part 135 operator in the United States to fly single-engine, IFR-capable AW119Kx. These aircraft join the company's current fleet of ten AW119Kx VFR (visual flight rules) aircraft. The latest AW119Kx IFR and the AW169 are expected to be delivered in 2022.

The IFR-capable AW119Kx allows pilots to operate aircraft safely in the challenging weather conditions of the region. The AW119Kx is an ideal entry point for commercial and public-service operators who seek high-level performance in instrument meteorological weather (IMC) conditions while still keeping single-engine economics. In addition, the AW119Kx provides unique, light-twin multiple redundancies of critical systems, cabin space, safety and reliability. The AW119Kx is the first single-engine provided with full IFR capabilities in decades, and its success is growing among EMS operators in U.S. 

The AW169 features a spacious, 222-cubic-foot cabin, similar in size to models in the intermediate weight category, with flexible interior layouts allowing 360-degree patient access, essential for critical care. In addition, the aircraft has auxiliary power unit (APU) mode, allowing the cabin to stay “powered on” even with stopped rotors. This creates a safe, quiet and comfortable environment that can maintain heat and air conditioning as needed. 

“Safety is at the heart of everything we do. The addition of the AW119Kx IFR and AW169 support our transition to utilizing instrument flight rules for patient transports and strengthen our fleet with new state-of-the-air aircraft and enhanced capabilities,” says Greg Thingvold, vice president of Aviation Operations at Life Link III. “Our new aircraft allows us to continue to respond to the ever-evolving needs of our patients while ensuring the highest margin of safety for our crews and those we serve.” 

“It is especially rewarding when we can help an existing customer add to their fleet with an even more capable aircraft,” says Bill Hunt, managing director of Leonardo Helicopters, U.S. “It tells us that our product is servicing their patients with the kind of excellence such a stellar operation demands.” 

Life Link III operates ten helicopter bases located in Alexandria, Blaine, Brainerd, Duluth, Hibbing, Rush City and Willmar in Minnesota, and Marshfield, Rhinelander and Rice Lake in Wisconsin. The company’s helicopter and airplane services provide on-scene emergency response and inter-facility transport for patients requiring critical care. Life Link III’s transportation services are accredited by CAMTS (Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transportation Systems), ensuring the highest standards of quality and safety are met. Life Link III is a non-profit consortium made up of the following member-owner organizations: Allina Health, CentraCare Health, Children’s Minnesota, Essentia Health, M Health Fairview, Regions Hospital/HealthPartners®, Hennepin Healthcare, Marshfield Clinic Health System, St. Luke’s, and HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital/St. Joseph’s. The company plans to open its eleventh helicopter base in Detroit Lakes, MN, in spring 2022. Learn more at www.lifelinkiii.com

Intermountain Life Flight (Intermountain Healthcare) has signed a contract for the first Full Ice Protection (FIPS) AW169 in North America, with delivery anticipated in late 2024. The new aircraft will significantly impact patient care, allowing in-flight critical care and transport of patients in even the harshest of winter conditions and will be the first helicopter in this category with this capability flying in North America. 

FIPS capabilities allow the aircraft to operate in full icing conditions when other helicopters would be grounded. The system heats windshield and blades to prevent ice accretion and allows for an automatic detection and activation, delivering unparalleled mission capabilities in demanding environments and extreme weather, as well as outstanding safety. The adoption of FIPS for the AW169 leverages the established capability of Leonardo across the AW family of latest generation helicopters, including the AW139 and AW189, which offer on-customer-demand ice protection system options for a range of roles, including rescue, already used across various geographies. 

“We are excited to add this aircraft to our Intermountain Life Flight fleet,” says Kent Johnson, director of Aviation Operations for Intermountain Life Flight, based in Salt Lake City. “The performance and safety features of this aircraft are outstanding and will serve us well in our environment and terrain.” 

“This is a significant milestone for Intermountain Healthcare and the communities it serves across the Intermountain West,” says Hunt. “Full ice protection allows for more and safer flights, while ensuring even those in more remote areas can be served during the winter months. We are incredibly proud to partner with Intermountain Healthcare.” 

With more range and power than competing helicopters in its category, the AW169 can travel up to 440 nautical miles, top speed at 160 knots and climb to 14,500 feet. Latest generation avionics include a four-axis, dual complex digital automation flight control system, a full night vision goggle (NVG)-compatible digital glass cockpit with three 8-inch by 10-inch displays. Rescue operators have already chosen the AW169 for life-saving missions in many countries, such as Italy, UK, U.S.A., Norway, Switzerland and Japan. Crews and maintenance technicians in the U.S. will benefit from comprehensive and advanced training solutions, digitalized services and simulation delivered for the AW169 through the new Training Academy in Philadelphia.