AgustaWestland N.V.

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AgustaWestland N.V.

AgustaWestland Italy
Via Giovanni Agusta, 520
21017 Cascina Costa di Samarate (VA)
Telephone: +39 0331 229111
Fax: +39 0331 229605
Web site:

AgustaWestland UK
Yeovil, Somerset
BA20 2YB
United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0) 1935 475222
Fax: +44 (0) 1935 702131
Web site:

Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Finmeccanica S.p.A.
Employees: 8,968
Sales: EUR 2.54 billion (2004)
NAIC: 541710 Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences; 336411 Aircraft Manufacturing

AgustaWestland N.V. is one of the world's largest helicopter manufacturers. It produces a wide range of high-performance rotorcraft for civil and military markets. Of 92 helicopters delivered in 2004, 66 went to commercial customers. Formed by combining two leading European helicopter manufacturers, the company has operations in Italy (near Milan), the United Kingdom (near Somerset, England), and the United States (Fort Worth and Philadelphia). A highly modified version of its EH101 Merlin won a U.S. Navy contract to supply helicopters for the president of the United States in 2005.

AgustaWestland N.V. was established in 2000 through a 50-50 joint venture between Italy's Finmeccanica S.p.A. and GKN PLC of the United Kingdom. Both of the companies joined to form AgustaWestland began their helicopter manufacturing by licensing U.S. designs.

Agusta History

Giovanni Agusta built and flew his first aircraft in 1907. This formed the beginnings of his namesake firm, Costruzioni Aeronautiche Giovanni Agusta S.p.A., based in Cascina Costa, near Milan. It originally designed and produced fixed wing aircraft in the 1920s, but became better known for motorcycles, at least until the mid-1950s.

The company began producing Bell Model 47 light helicopters under license in 1952. Agusta's version first flew in 1954; the company would produce more than 1,200 of them in the next 22 years. Agusta went on to build more of Bell's successful designs in the 1960s. These included the Model 204 UH-1 Iroquois and the ubiquitous JetRanger. The company also produced designs from other U.S. manufacturers.

Eventually, the firm acquired the expertise to develop its own prototype, the A101G. This three-engined military transport never saw production, however. A few other early designs reached the prototype stage but were unable to win more than limited orders from the Italian military. These were followed by the innovative A109 Hirundo twin turbine helicopter, which first flew in August 1971. Fast and versatile, it was soon adopted by Italy and Argentina. About a dozen a month were being produced in 1979, three years after its service introduction.

In the late 1970s, Agusta began designing the 15-ton EH101 helicopter with its British partner, Westland. It was first delivered to the Royal Navy in 1997.

In 1983, Agusta introduced the first combat helicopter to be designed and produced entirely in Europe, the A129 Mangusta. In the 1980s, Agusta also was developing the 11-ton NH90 helicopter in conjunction with French, Dutch, and German companies.

Agusta created a joint venture with Bell Helicopter in 1998. The Bell/Agusta Aerospace Company was formed to produce the AB139 and the BA609, a civil variant of the tiltrotor aircraft being developed for the U.S. military.

An updated version of the A109 hit the market to a strong response in 1999. The A119 Koala, introduced in 2000, enjoyed success in the law enforcement market in the Americas and Asia. Exports accounted for more than 60 percent of sales in 2000, when revenues were more than EUR 930 million.

Westland History

Like Agusta, Westland also started its helicopter program through licensing. Westland was formed from the Petter engine works and had made aircraft at its site in Yeovil, England, since 1915. Its first planes were fabric-clad aircraft built under license from the manufacturers Short, Sopwith, and de Havilland; Westland produced more than 1,100 planes during World War I.

Between the wars Westland pioneered high-altitude flying; a flyover of Mount Everest in a Westland-Houston PV-3 Wapati made international headlines. Work on cabin pressurization was carried on during World War II in developing the Welkin high-altitude interceptor.

Notable aircraft produced for the military in World War II included the Lysander utility craft and the heavily armed, twinengined Whirlwind interceptor. Westland was one of three companies chosen to produce Spitfires after the Supermarine factory in Southampton was bombed. The company made more than 2,000, including the Seafire naval variant it helped to design.

Westland was early to enter the rotorcraft field, producing Cierva-designed autogyros in 1936. This enterprise was cut short by the impending hostilities. The company built its first helicopter, the Dragonfly, in October 1948. This was a modified version of the Sikorsky S-51. Another Sikorsky-based design, the S-55, was designated the Westland Whirlwind and had a production run of almost 400.

Westland produced 250 models of Agusta's AB47G helicopter in the 1960s. This later became known as the Westland-Agusta-Bell 47G "Sioux." The company began producing its first indigenously designed helicopters after buying the operations of Saunders-Roe (SARO) in 1959. Successful SARO models included the P 531 Scout/Wasp, which saw about 200 built for the British military.

Westland soon acquired other pioneering British firms, including the Fairey Aviation Company and the Bristol Aircraft Company. Bristol's Type 171 Sycamore had been the first helicopter built in postwar Britain. Bristol also produced the United Kingdom's first multi-engine helicopters. Westland Helicopters entered the 1960s as Britain's sole helicopter manufacturer. In 1969, Westland introduced one of its biggest successes, the Sea King, which was a variant of Sikorsky's SH-3D (S-61). It was exported to several navies.

Westland led the Anglo-French partnership that produced the Lynx in collaboration with Aerospatiale (formerly Sud-Aviation) from the mid-1960s to the 1970s. More than 400 were made after it entered service in December 1977. Aerospatiale led the design of the two other helicopters made by the partnership, the Puma and the Gazelle.

After a period of unprecedented success, Westland entered a difficult decade, the 1980s. It lacked capital for developing new designs. It sought other manufacturers to share some of the burden. Westland found one partner in Sikorsky, albeit this was a controversial choice due to its U.S., rather than European, origins. U.K. Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine, who preferred an all-European solution to Westland's difficulties, resigned in January 1986 in what came to be known as the "Westland Affair," which split Margaret Thatcher's cabinet.

Westland teamed with Agusta again to develop the 15-ton EH101 Merlin, a replacement for the Sea King. This was accomplished through the joint venture E.H. Industries Limited. Interestingly, the U.S. firm IBM became the prime contractor on a 1991 Ministry of Defence contract for 44 EH101s configured for the antisubmarine role due to its ability to underwrite the EUR 1.5 billion project.

Westland Group was acquired by the engineering firm GKN PLC in 1994. It was subsequently renamed GKN Westland Helicopters. GKN had owned a stake in Westland for several years, and obtained control of the company after Sikorsky parent United Technology sold its stake. GKN offered considerable financial strength, which allowed Westland to become a prime contractor for major projects, such as a EUR 600 million Merlin HC Mk 3 order for the RAF.

Westland won a EUR 2.2 billion contract to build 67 Apache AH MK.1 helicopters in 1996. These were produced under license from Boeing Company, which was also a subcontractor. By the end of the 1990s, GKN Westland had revenues of about $1 billion.

Forming AgustaWestland in 2000

GKN and Finmeccanica S.p.A., the respective parent companies of Westland and Agusta, officially combined their helicopter operations on January 1, 2001, after more than two years of negotiations. In the deal a new holding company, Agusta-Westland N.V., was incorporated in The Netherlands. Agusta-Westland was one of the world's largest helicopter manufacturers, with annual revenues exceeding $2 billion and 10,000 employees. It had 6,000 aircraft in service. A major restructuring program was implemented soon after the merger.

Company Perspectives:

AgustaWestland's mission is to consolidate and strengthen its position as a global leader in the rotorcraft industry.

AgustaWestland, the Anglo-Italian helicopter company owned by Italy's Finmeccanica, has achieved another year of good results in 2004. The Company is one of the world's leading helicopter manufacturers, with a full range of rotorcraft for every commercial, government and military application and provides an unrivalled capability in training and customer support. AgustaWestland is more than just a helicopter manufacturer; it is a provider of total rotorcraft capability solutions. Although AgustaWestland is proud of its heritage, it recognises the challenge of continuing to delight customers in its mission to strengthen its position as a global leader in the rotorcraft industry.

In 2003, the company reported more than 100 orders for the AB 139 medium helicopter it was producing in collaboration with Bell Helicopter. Revenues were EUR 2.6 billion ($3.3 billion) in 2003, when the company delivered 118 aircraft, up nearly 20 percent from the previous year. According to Flight International, AgustaWestland had a 12 percent share of the global helicopter market, and its constituent companies had delivered a total of 7,500 helicopters.

Finmeccanica bought out GKN's 50 percent holding in AgustaWestland N.V. in 2004 for EUR 1 billion ($1.8 billion). Finmeccanica was shifting its corporate focus to the aerospace and defense market, and was also buying out its avionics joint venture with BAe Systems. Finmeccanica was 32.4 percent owned by the Italian government.

In January 2005, AgustaWestland, part of a team led by Lockheed Martin, won a $6.1 billion U.S. Navy contest to build Marine One, the U.S. president's helicopter (actually 23 helicopters were ordered). This was a controversial honor for a foreign manufacturer; AgustaWestland's three-engined US101 design, a derivative of the EH101, won out over a Sikorsky model since it was more spacious, had been proven in combat, and could be delivered sooner. Bell Helicopter, AgustaWestland's partner in Bell/Agusta Aerospace, was also part of the Lockheed Martin team. The news of the presidential helicopter win unfortunately was followed by layoffs of 640 workers at the U.K. plant due to other contracts winding up. The company had employed 4,000 people there.

The company hoped the prestigious Marine One order would lead to more success with the U.S. military, including a contract to supply up to 141 helicopters for the Air Force's $10 billion Personnel Recovery Vehicle program. Another bid, announced in October 2005, teamed AugustaWestland with L-3 Communications to pitch the twin-engine US139 for the U.S. Army's Light Utility Helicopters requirement to replace the Vietnam era UH-1 Huey. AgustaWestland also was winning large orders in the United Kingdom, including a EUR 1 billion deal for Future Lynx helicopters. The company was in the bidding for other Ministry of Defence requirements.

In a reversal of the company's origins, AgustaWestland was licensing its designs to foreign manufacturers. Denel Aerospace of South Africa was building the A109 light utility helicopter while Japan's Kawasaki Heavy Industries was making EH101s. AgustaWestland formed a joint venture in China to build and sell its A109 helicopter there. The company, which was getting established in Australia, also was promoting its products heavily in the South Pacific. While the world commercial helicopter market was expected to be flat, military demand was growing.

Principal Subsidiaries

Agusta Aerospace Corporation (U.S.A.); Agusta S.p.A. (Italy); AgustaWestland Inc. (U.S.A.); Westland Ltd. (U.K.).

Principal Operating Units

AgustaWestland Italy; AgustaWestland UK; AgustaWestland North America; AgustaWestlandAAC.

Principal Competitors

Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.; Eurocopter S.A.; MD Helicopters Holding, Inc.; Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.

Key Dates:

Giovanni Agusta forms an aircraft firm in Italy.
Westland produces its first helicopter, a modified Sikorsky S-51.
Agusta begins producing Bell helicopters under license.
Agusta's A129 Mangusta is the first all-European combat helicopter.
The "Westland Affair" controversy over the U.S.-led rescue package shakes up the Thatcher cabinet.
Engineering firm GKN PLC acquires Westland Group.
The Bell/Agusta Aerospace Company joint venture is formed to develop the AB139 helicopter and BA609 Tiltrotor.
GKN and Finmeccanica S.p.A. form the Agusta-Westland joint venture.
Finmeccanica acquires GKN's 50 percent holding in AgustaWestland.

Further Reading

Boles, Tracey, "Agusta Expects Windfall of Orders After Bush Contract," Sunday Business (London), January 30, 2005.

Chambliss, Lauren, "AgustaWestland Has US Partners in Sight," Evening Standard (London), June 15, 2001, p. 42.

Cortes, Lorenzo, "AgustaWestland Is Upbeat About American Market, Cites Work with Domestic Producers," Defense Daily, March 18, 2003.

Cox, Bob, "Longtime Affiliate Agusta Now Providing Bell Helicopter Products to Make, Sell," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 8, 2005.

Crocker, Stan, "Whose Chopper Creates More Jobs? That's What the $7 Billion Battle Between Sikorsky and Europe's AgustaWestland to Replace the Marine One Fleet May Come Down To," Business Week Online, March 26, 2004.

Harrison, Michael, "Westland in £1.4bn Tie-Up with Agusta," Independent (London), July 27, 2000, p. 16.

"Helicopter Firm to Axe 640 Jobs," Birmingham Post (England), February 1, 2005, p. 15.

Hodge, Nathan, "Bid to Build on a Rare Victory," Financial Times (London), June 13, 2005, p. 4.

Hoyle, Craig, and Graham Warwick, "Talking Italian," Flight International, November 2, 2004, p. 48.

Montgomery, Dave, and Bob Cox, "Lockheed-Led Group Wins $6.1 Billion Contract to Build Marine One," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 28, 2005.

Muradian, Vago, and Neil Baumgardner, "Execs: EH101 Would Become 'American' If Selected for U.S. Service," Defense Daily International, June 1, 2001.

O'Brien, Heather, and Lisa Clifford, "AgustaWestland Loses British Pedigree," Daily Deal, May 27, 2004.

Polmar, Norman, and Floyd D. Kennedy, Jr., Military Helicopters of the World: Military Rotary-Wing Aircraft Since 1917, Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, c. 1981.

Sutton, Oliver, "Transition to AgustaWestland," Interavia Business & Technology, February 2001, p. 22.

Taylor, Michael J.H., and John W.R. Taylor, Helicopters of the World, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1978.

Wastnage, Justin, "Focusing on Profit," Flight International, August 19, 2003, p. 30.