UPDATED 13 May 2015| Future Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16 and possibly Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II pilots will train with the Italian Air Force on Alenia Aermacchi M-346 jets, thanks to an agreement that was signed last week by the Chiefs of Staff of the two air forces. The agreement envisages the detachment of an instructor and two student pilots of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, to be stationed at the Italian Air Force’s flight school in Lecce.
UPDATE 13 May | The Royal Netherlands Air Force confirmed that the first two pilots started training in Lecce on 12 May. The training is a 3 year experiment to see if the M-346 is suited for training F-35 pilots. If successful, current training in the US could partly move to Italy.
It is the two countries’ intention that this first group of pilots represent the starting point for an extended cooperation in the years to come. The Dutch visited Lecce earlier this year.
The instructor and the two students will follow the standard training programs of the Italian military pilots. The training system is already acknowledged and appreciated by other countries, which have sent their personnel to train at the Lecce-Galatina school. Austria is one of those countries
The Italian training program was recently reconfigured to catch up with operational and technological advances. The flight training school at Lecce, also known as 61 Stormo, this week changed it’s logo from a penguin to a more aggressive, bird-like emblem to suite the change. More on the Italian training recipe is here.
The M-346 trainer (called T-346 by the Italian Air Force), is evaluated with great interest by several air forces that plan to operate new-generation aircraft. The type is in use in Italy, Singapore and Israel, with Poland set to join.
Dutch pilot training starts on the Pilatus PC-7, after which student pilots usually move to the US for training on the T-38 Talon. For that part, the Dutch now eye the M-346 with the Italians.
The AgustaWestland AW609 tilt-rotor aircraft will enter production, the Italian-Anglo manufacturer announced on 3 March 2015.
The company has expanded the AW609 program to include the AgustaWestland Philadelphia, USA, facility through its designation as the first final assembly line for the only civil tilt-rotor in development to date. A second final assembly line is expected to be established at AgustaWestland’s Vergiate facility in Italy at a later date.
AgustaWestland currently has two prototypes undergoing flight testing with a third in final assembly. The first prototype aircraft will continue flying at the AgustaWestland facility in Arlington, Texas in parallel with FAA Certification support work at AgustaWestland’s Philadelphia facility. The fourth prototype will be assembled in Philadelphia in 2016.
Full integration of the AW609 program into AgustaWestland Philadelphia’s operations is expected by third quarter 2015, and will include facility expansions as required to accommodate the AW609 TiltRotor engineering, certification, and aircraft assembly activities.
Lately AgustaWestland has increased the maximum take-off weight up to 18,000 lbs (8,165 kg) thanks to engine upgrades, landing gear modifications and optimized flight control techniques. These test results validate a sizeable increase in useful load that provides users with the capability to fly 500 nautical miles point-to-point with a full load of nine passengers in two hours.
To further enhance mission capabilities underwing auxiliary fuel tanks are being developed to increase range and endurance and ensure that the additional take-off performance may be built into a wide array of mission profiles. These will permit the aircraft to boost its maximum range to 1,100 nm (2,038 km) and allow users to transport six passengers over a range of 800 nm (1,482 km) in a little over three hours. The cabin door is also being enlarged on all variants to improve access, in particular for search-and-rescue (SAR) and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) operations.
The AW609 aircraft have so far logged nearly 1,200 hours. Nearly 60 aircraft have been ordered to date for a variety of roles and missions, including offshore transportation, emergency medical services and patient transfer, search and rescue, VIP, and law-enforcement operations.
Danish based lease company Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC) managed to place a number of ATR turboprop aircraft with customers in February 2015.
First out was a ATR 72-500 to Mistral. The Rome, Italy, based airline flies the aircraft for Alitalia.
Easyfly rented a ATR 42-500 from NAC, becoming a new customer. The Colombian airliner was known to be flying a dozen British Aerospace Jetstream 41s only, but we at Airheadsfly.com couldn’t get confirmed if this is the really the first aircraft of a new type for Easyfly.
Brazilian operator Passaredo Linhas Aéreas also became a new client of NAC, on 20 February, when it took delivery of a ATR 72-500, bringing the total Passaredo fleet to 11 ATR 72-500/600s. The Brazilian airliner has Dr. Leite Lopes Airport in Ribeirão Preto as its main hub.
A “stunning experience” is what Italian freelance photographer / journalist Dino Marcellino (54) calls every single chopper flight he was on. He put together an impressive book solely focused on the Italian rescue helicopter operations. Exclusively for AIRheads↑Fly Dino shares his experiences with you.
“When I hear the ‘music’ of a plane of helicopter I need to turn my eyes to the sky, ever since I was young”, says Mr. Marcellino. “Being interested in photography my two passions easily united.”
At the AIRheads↑Fly editor’s desk the spread pages of SOS – Italian Helicopter Rescue Operations from Mediterranean Sea to Mont Blanc just keep distracting me. The wonderful photography, the nice reading (all in English) and the clean design are very inspiring. In fact, I caught myself thinking about the nearest possible helicopter landing site and if my camera’s batteries are still fully loaded.
Dino Marcellino: “Although not a pilot myself, I flew along in more than twenty different types of helicopters. Every time it is a very stunning experience. From witnessing the launch of a torpedo from a navy helicopter and training ops of Italian assault forces, to the landing on a glacier at 12,000 feet with a ski-equipped helicopter. Each helicopter flight is unique and unforgettable, but being with the rescue teams is even more special since ‘the human factor’ is very strong.”
The best way to understand how these professional airmen [of the helicopter rescue services] work, is to see them in action, writes the Italian freelance journalist in his book. Fortunately he never had to be really rescued in a life-threatening situation himself, but Mr. Marcellino came close once.
“It was a rescue operation after an avalanche. I flew on board a little NH-500 and jumped from the hovering helicopter. I plunged into the white powder with the camera bag and all, with the snow up to my chest. Very cold. It was impossible for me to move. Somehow I had the clear presence of mind to keep the camera above my head when I went down. So I shot some images from where I was. Not being able to get out myself, I had to be ‘recovered’ by helicopter, with some difficulty.”
One of the images Dino Marcellino shot from his snowed-in position made it to the evening news at Italian national TV Channel 1, and now here (see above) at AIRheads↑Fly.
SOS – Italian Helicopter Rescue Operations from Mediterranean Sea to Mont Blanc is a book that gives us all the possibility to discover the many organisations operating in the air rescue sector of Italy. “Men and women belonging to military organisations, state services and civilian operators are all united by one mission: to bring professional rescue and medical assistance by helicopter wherever there is an emergency.”
As Mr. Marcellino emphasises they do have some challenges. The Italian rescue sector goes all the way down from the Mediterranean Sea to the highest point in Europe not counting the Caucasus: the Mont Blanc towering at a height of 4,807 metres or 15,780 feet.
“With this book I share my experiences and show what heli-rescue really is. While making the book I went through all kinds of phases. During some days the work turned out to be very binding, sometimes it was highly emotional and a few days were very sad. Once I find a sponsor I will put more of that in my next book.”
Three times in his life Dino Marcellino was allowed to pilot a chopper – just for a few minutes. “It is a great sensation, being one with this kind of machine. Nothing else can give you such a feeling than a helicopter.”
SOS – Italian Helicopter Rescue Operations from Mediterranean Sea to Mont Blanc By Dino Marcellino
Written in English, published on high-quality 170gr glossy paper, 148 pages, 278 colour images (all by Dino Marcellino), hard cover.
EUR 30 (about US$ 38), plus post & packaging. FOR PURCHASE AND PAYMENT DETAILS contact author/photographer Dino Marcellino directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alenia Aermacchi’s plant in Venegono has begun assembling Israel’s first M-346 advanced jet trainer.
The three major components of the first aircraft are currently being joined to form the aircraft’s structure. Then the M-346 Lavi, as the type will be called in Israeli Air & Space Force service, will make its way down the assembly line and roll out of the factory for final checks and delivery to the IASF in the mid of 2014.
Israel ordered a total of 30 M-346 as advanced trainers to replace the TA-4 Skyhawks currently in service. The M-346 is primary an advanced trainer, but can be configured for light combat operations. The avionics suite can be modeled in F-16, F-18, Eurofighter, Gripen, Rafale, F-22 and JSF kind of environments, according to the company.