Leonardo officially launched the construction of a new state-of-the-art helicopter technical assistance center at Whiting Aviation Park in Milton, Florida and adjacent to Naval Air Station Whiting Field (NASWF), during a ceremony held last Friday 28 July. The announcement was made with partners from Santa Rosa County, Space Florida, Triumph Gulf Coast and the State of Florida. The Leonardo Helicopters Florida Support Center will have an area of 10.500 square meters and will include four large hangars where the main components will be repaired and overhauled, including the transmission, for which a dynamic test bench will be available. There will also be a painting booth equipped with all the necessary equipment. Finally, a large spare parts warehouse will also be provided to respond even more efficiently to the procurement needs of the US Navy's fleet of TH-73 training helicopters at the NASWF and of commercial operators present throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Completion of the construction works of the center is scheduled for the end of 2024.
“We are thrilled to pave the way at Whiting Aviation Park for our new technical service center,” said Clyde Woltman, Chief Executive Officer of Leonardo Helicopters US. “With this modern and efficient structure, Leonardo's support services will be even closer to our customers. We wouldn't be here today if it weren't for the continued partnership and support of the State of Florida, Space Florida, Santa Rosa County, Triumph Gulf Coast and the United States Navy."
Leonardo first announced plans to build a helicopter support center at Whiting Aviation Park in 2019, in the event its helicopter model is selected by the US Navy for the Advanced Helicopter Training System , the Navy's program to replace its fleet of NASWF-operated TH-57 "Sea Rangers". In January 2020, the US Navy selected a variant of Leonardo's AW119, now designated the TH-73 "Thrasher", to serve as the primary training helicopter for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard of the United States, as well as for other allied countries.
The first helicopter was delivered to the US Navy in June 2021 and in July, with the support of Santa Rosa County and the Triumph Gulf Coast, Leonardo opened a temporary hangar at Peter Prince airport, to obtain the American FAA Part certification 145 and repair work could begin, while the larger permanent facility was being planned and developed at Whiting. Since then, Leonardo has hired 19 full-time employees in Santa Rosa County. "Space Florida's unwavering commitment to expanding its space-focused area has set the stage for a new era of exploration and innovation," said Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida. "Leonardo's presence in the aerospace sector in this area projects us towards a future in which Florida will be the leader in the global economy of the sector".
In order to best meet the needs of this fleet and the more than 1.000 helicopters operating in the Gulf of Mexico and Central America, Leonardo worked closely with partners in Santa Rosa County and Space Florida to select, for the new facility Support Facility, a site at Whiting Aviation Park, a commercial aviation area adjacent to the NASWF in Milton. Situated on approximately 110 acres of land in Santa Rosa County-owned industrial parks, Whiting Aviation Park is based on a "first-of-its-kind" agreement between Santa Rosa County and the US Navy to employ with limited access, which allows users of the area to benefit from almost 2000 meters of runway and air traffic control. Thanks to the partnership with Space Florida, Leonardo will invest over 65 million dollars in construction, equipment and equipment for this new facility.
Photo: US Navy