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The Italian Job: Avio Aero tech specialists support Italian Air Force HH101

October 16, 2020 | by Yari Bovalino
The AW101 by Leonardo is one of the most advanced and powerful multi-role helicopter available on the market today, and a top choice of numerous international armed forces.

For the Aeronautica Militare, this aircraft was developed in the HH101 configuration, aka "CAESAR," and in addition to its typical rescue and emergency, personnel recovery and support operations, it is also able to carry out other special operations (such as those of Slow Mover Interceptor).

It is therefore not surprising that the HH101 is also among the 25 models of helicopter which, in over 50 countries around the world, are powered by GE Aviation's T700/CT7 family of engines. More specifically, all AW101 helicopters are powered by three CT7-8E turboshaft engines, each capable of delivering a maximum power of 2,500 shp.

A powerful and highly reliable engine - the T700/CT7 family has gathered more than 100 million flight hours - with a strong Italian connection: Avio Aero has been involved in this program since the 1970s, carrying up to 60% of the responsibility for the design and production of the entire engine, as well as providing assistance and maintenance services.

Thanks to the new agreement signed with Leonardo, Avio Aero Service will also take care of the fleet in operation at the Italian Air Force bases in Cervia and Caserta-Grazzanise. The CT7-8E engine of this helicopter is already being assisted by specialists at the Brindisi headquarters for customers such as the Italian Navy and international military operators.

"This new contract is the first 'Performance Based Logistics' (or PBL, i.e. based on the operational availability of the fleet) for an engine of the T700/CT7 family required by one of the Italian armed forces and also includes the supply of the spare parts necessary to ensure optimal fleet efficiency," says Francesco Manciagli, Helicopters Sales Strategy & Marketing Director at Avio Aero.

The helicopter is more than 72 feet long with a maximum weight at takeoff of over 15 tons. Its solid structure and wide internal room (it can accommodate 50 passengers for rescue operations), as well as its advanced digital equipment, give it the ability to operate in harsh environments and extreme conditions.

An HH101 helicopter during a mission in the Italian Dolomiti mountains. Photos provided by Aeronautica Militare ©2019

Propulsive performance is crucial, allowing it to perform tactical flights at very low altitude, refuel in flight. The Italian Air Force holds a record with this helicopter, achieving a flight autonomy of almost 7 hours. Two out of three engines can remain operational at cruising speed, a climbing speed of more than 30 feet per second and a maximum cruising speed of 172 mph (150 knots).

The long-standing and all-Italian collaboration with Leonardo is consolidated and reinforced, to the advantage of our Armed Forces, according to Manciagli, who added, "the standardization of aircraft propulsion through the use of engines belonging to the same family (T700 / CT7) can provide unquestionable advantages for the customers." Furthermore, Manciagli explains that "the use of PBL type solutions enhances these advantages because, in addition to increasing fleet efficiency, it also allows a significant reduction in costs over the long term and improves the Armed Forces' ability to plan expenditures."

A task that, together with engine management, logistics, and all the technical aspects, in the case of Aeronautica Militare, is improved through innovative skills and technologies: something that the professionals of Avio Aero and military personnel share in their daily collaboration at bases in Italy (for on-wing support or advanced engine testing activities), as well as at the Brindisi center, where a new, technologically advanced warehouse is available to customers and directly connected to both the factory and the service shop.

Indeed, while the CT7 engine parts are designed and manufactured at the facilities in Rivalta, Pomigliano and Bielsko Biala, Brindisi is home to the reference center for the armed forces with its production of modules and components for military engines and teams of technical specialists whose skills derive from extensive experience on the various helicopter models and engines which power them.

A Service Tech Specialist with a CT7-8 engine in the Avio Aero Brindisi centre.

"The process of standardization is certainly an advantage for us in Brindisi, aimed at ensuring the maximum functionality and operation of our customers' engines," says Claudio Stefanelli, Military Technical Support Manager of Avio Aero. “The support we offer during each intervention is optimized from a technical point of view, but also from a logistical point of view, being able to count on a warehouse, suitably stocked with new parts, available in the same facility."

As a result, the work of Avio Aero Military Service specialists is carried out along the lines dedicated to the various maintenance, repair and engine overhaul operations within the Brindisi plant and Italian Air Force bases (8 of which are currently served), where professionals such as Field Service Representatives (FSR) reside, creating a direct connection between end customer and company.

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GE Aerospace is a world-leading provider of jet and turboprop engines, as well as integrated systems for commercial, military, business and general aviation aircraft.