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Agusta

A South African Air Force A109LUH


Agusta (now part of AgustaWestland) is an Italian helicopter manufacturer. It is based in the Varese province of Italy, with its main manufacturing plant being at Cascina Costa. It is a subsbidiary of Finmeccanica.

The company was founded by Giovanni Agusta, who flew his first airplane in 1907.

Starting in 1923, the company first designed, produced and maintained fixed wing aircraft at its plant in Cascina Costa.

From 1952 the company got involved in helicopter manufacturing, first licence-building Bell helicopters, but later Sikorsky, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas products as well.

The company also had ambitions to design and build its own helicopters. The Agusta A101G and the Agusta A106 can be considered the best of its earlier attempts.

The Agusta A109 has undoubtedly been the company's biggest success. The A109 is a commercial and military twin turbine helicopter, of which the latest variants are still in production, hundreds having already been sold.

In 1983 the Agusta A129 Mangusta anti-tank helicopter first flew. It was the first attack helicopter to be designed and produced wholly in Europe. Unfortunately this helicopter has not been a great commercial success, the type being only in service with the Italian Army.

The 1980s saw the start of several collaborative projects for Agusta:

  • In 1981 Agusta and Westland of Britain started the AgustaWestland EH101 medium-lift naval helicopter project in order to satisfy the requirements of the Royal Navy and the Italian Navy.
  • In 1985 the company started a collaborative programme with the aeronautic industries of France, Germany and the Netherlands in order to develop and produce the NHI NH90, a 9-ton twin engine multi-role medium helicopter in order to satisfy the requirements of their respective countries’ armed forces.

In the 1990s several new products based on the A109 were introduced:

Agusta became involved in a notorious Belgian bribery scandal when it was revealed that the company had paid the two Belgian socialist parties who were then (1988/1989)in the government to assist the company in getting the contract for attack helicopters for the Belgian army.

In 1998 Agusta formed a joint venture with Bell Helicopter Textron called the Bell/Agusta Aerospace Company. Its aim was to develop the Bell/Agusta AB139 helicopter and the Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor aircraft. Bell later withdrew from the AB139 project, which is now known as the AgustaWestland AW139.

In July 2000 Finmeccanica and GKN plc agreed to merge their respective helicopter subsidiaries (Agusta and GKN-Westland Helicopters), forming AgustaWestland.

See also

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