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In this month’s Aircraft Comparative Analysis- we’ll provide information on a selection of Pre-Owned helicopters in the $5 million range for the purpose of valuing the pre-owned AgustaWestland AW109E Power.

We’ll consider our usual productivity parameters - payload/range- speed and cabin size- and cover current market values. The field in this study includes the Bell 427- Eurocopter EC-135P2- and MD Helicopters’ MD902 Explorer.

In the late 1960s Agusta designed the A109 as a single-engine commercial helicopter. However- it soon realized that a twinengine design was needed and it was redesigned in 1969 with two Allison 250-C14 turboshaft engines.

The AW109 was built in civil and military versions and was originally developed in Italy as an ambulance and rescue helicopter to operate in the mountainous regions of Switzerland. A projected military version (the A109B) was not developed- and the company concentrated on an eight-seat version dubbed the A109C.

The first of three prototypes made its maiden flight on August 4- 1971. A long protracted development then followed- and the first production aircraft was not completed until April 1975 - delivery of production machines starting in early 1976. The helicopter soon became a success and was used in multiple mission roles.

The AW109 airframe design consists of a lightweight aluminum alloy and honeycomb structure with high crashworthiness.

Two large sliding doors provide for easy access and cargo operation- and are in-flight operable- and there are two separate pilot's doors. The long tail boom configuration provides high yaw control for operation in strong winds. Further- the AW109 helicopter is also notable for having retractable landing gear- unlike many other similar helicopters.

Following on from the A109C was the A109D- but only one prototype was built. Next came the AW109E Power that entered service in 1997. The AW109E Power can be configured as a passenger helicopter for four to six passengers- but the cabin can be quickly converted for an emergency medical evacuation role.

The AW109E Power employs side-by-side Pratt & Whitney PW206C or Turbomeca Arrius 2K1 engines with FADEC. Each engine is equipped with independent fuel and oil systems- and independent engine controls. The AW109E Power has single and dual pilot IFR (instrument flight rules) capability with a three-axis duplex automatic flight control system (AFCS). In the panel- the aircraft can be fitted with either a Rockwell Collins ProLine II or a Honeywell Silver Crown avionics suite.

The data contained in Table A (top left) is published in the B&CA May 2009 issue- but is also sourced from Conklin & de Decker. As we mentioned in past articles- a potential operator should focus on payload capability as a key factor. The AW109E Power’s ‘Available payload with Maximum Fuel’ at 1-287 pounds offers the highest payload capability in this field of study.

According to Conklin & de Decker- the cabin volume of the AW109E Power- at 124 cubic feet- is slightly smaller than that of the EC-135 P2 helicopter at 134 cubic feet- as shown in Chart A (middle left). The Bell 427 at 102 cubic feet has the smallest cabin volume in the field of comparison.

As mentioned previously- the AW109E Power employs side-by-side Pratt & Whitney PW206C or Turbomeca Arrius 2K1 engines each offering a transmission rating of 450. Transmission rating is a limiting factor in the total rated and usable engine power output. The AW109E Power transmission rating is the lowest rating value in the field of comparison.

Using data published in the May 2009 B&CA Planning and Purchasing Handbook and the August 2009 B&CA Operations Planning Guide we will compare our helicopters. The nationwide average Jet A fuel cost used from the August 2009 edition was $4.25 per gallon at press time- so for the sake of comparison we’ll chart the numbers as published.

The ‘Total Variable Cost’- illustrated in Chart B (bottom left)- is defined as the cost of Fuel Expense- Maintenance Labor Expense- Scheduled Parts Expense and Miscellaneous trip expense. The total variable cost for the AW109E Power at $903 has about a 15% lower variable cost per hour compared to the Bell 427 at $1-061. However- the AW109E Power has a higher variable cost compared to either the MD902 or the EC-135P2 helicopters.

The points in Chart C (top right) center on the same group of helicopters. Pricing used in the vertical axis is as published in the B&CA 2009 Purchase Planning Handbook. The productivity index requires further discussion in that the factors used can be somewhat arbitrary.

Productivity can be defined (and it is here) as the multiple of three factors:
1. Range with full payload and available fuel;
2. The long range cruise speed flown to achieve that range;
3. The cabin volume available for passengers and amenities.

The result is a very large number so for the purpose of charting- each result is divided by one billion. A computed curve fit on this plot would not be very tight- but when all turbine helicopters are considered the “r” squared factor would equal a number above 0.9. Others may choose different parameters- but serious helicopter buyers are usually impressed with Price- Range- Speed and Cabin Size.

After consideration of the Price- Range- Speed and Cabin Size- we can conclude that the AW109E Power helicopter- as shown in the Productivity Index is highly productive compared to the other helicopters shown. Also included in the productivity chart is the AW109S Grand helicopter showing the continued improvement in the next successive helicopter model.

The average speed- cabin volume- and maximum payload values from Conklin and de Decker and B&CA are shown in Table B (middle right) for the helicopters in this field of comparison. Also in the table is the average new retail price (B&CA) for each aircraft with the latest model (2009) produced with the price. The last two columns of information show the number of aircraft in-operation and percentage ‘For Sale’. The last column shows the average monthly number of sales transactions in the past 12 months.

As shown- the AW109E Power helicopter leads the field in speed. However- as of the end of November 2009- there were 38 (or 11.7% of the fleet) for sale with a monthly average of five sold.

As of November 2009- the average length of ownership of the AW109E Power pre-owned helicopter stood at 2.94 years which was less than ‘ALL’ Pre-owned AgustaWestland helicopters at 4.35 years- and ‘All’ Turbine Powered Pre-owned helicopters at 6.3 years (JETNET STAR reports). These averages can be valuable information for a dealer/broker’s repeat business- enabling them to anticipate frequency of helicopter ownership changes.

Table C (top left) shows the usage by business type of the AW109E Power. The ‘Top 4’ business types account for 86.7% of the most common uses of the AW109E Power helicopter.

Finally- Chart D (bottom left) shows the location by continent for the AgustaWestland AW109E Power helicopter. Europe has the majority with 40.4% of the AW109E Power helicopters followed by North America at 24%- and the continents of South America and Asia at 15.1% and 14.5%- respectively.

Within the preceding paragraphs we have touched upon several of the attributes that helicopter operators value. There are other qualities such as service and support that might factor in a buying decision- too- however.

The AW109E Power helicopter fares well against its competition- so those operators in the market should find the preceding comparison of value. Our expectations are that the AW109E Power helicopter will continue to do very well in the pre-owned market.

For more information: Michael Chase is president of Chase & Associates- and can be contacted at 1628 Snowmass Place- Lewisville- TX75077; Tel: 214-226-9882; Web: www.mdchase.aero  

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