ROME, March 24 (UPI) -- The first of 16 all-weather search-and-rescue AgustaWestland helicopters for Norway has completed its maiden flight at a factory in Britain.
Finmeccanica, of which AgustaWestland is now a part, said the maiden flight of the AW101 earlier this month marks the start of a flight test program that will lead to the delivery of the aircraft beginning in 2017.
"I am very pleased that Finmeccanica has reached this important milestone in the SAR helicopter project and thereby making good progress for the replacement of the aging Sea King helicopter with the new state-of-the-art AW101 by 2020," said Norwegian Minister of Justice and Public Security Anders Anundsen. "I would furthermore like to bring my sincere gratitude to the dedicated and hardworking team at the company who have made this first flight possible in time."
Norway's Ministry of Justice and Public Security ordered the AW101 helicopters at the end of 2013 on behalf of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. Each helicopter will have an advanced SAR equipment package, including a multi-panel Active Electronically Scanned Array surveillance radar system, large cabin doors and rear ramp for easy access for personnel, survivors and equipment.
Finmeccanica's Helicopter Division will provide initial support and training services, including spares at each of the aircraft operating bases and aircrew training.