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December 06, 2012

8-plus ton helicopter takes off in Arlington

ARLINGTON -- Chuck Yeager always said that if it looks right, it flies right.

That was the general feeling of a number of spectators, including some city leaders, who witnessed a demo flight of AgustaWestland's new generation AW-189 eight-ton helicopter.

The sleek-styled aircraft took off shortly around 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon in a "demonstration of agility,'' one AgustaWestland official said.

The Italian-based company opened a 5,000-square-foot office space and a flight test facility at Arlington Municipal Airport earlier this year.

"It's been a good experience for us,'' said Bob LaBelle, an official for AgustaWestland. "We intentionally selected this location because of the weather and the abudance of aerospace talent."

AgustaWestland has built five prototypes of the AW 189, which has been touted as a less costly and more efficient helicopter to maintain and operate. It is primarily a passenger-transport helicopter for offshore transport, utility and safety and rescue efforts.

Thursday at Arlington Municipal, the double-engined machine quickly rose into clear blue Texas skies and performed a number of acrobatics, including wing-overs and sharp turns. Some spectators said they had never witnessed such a large helicopter perform such elaborate maneuvers.

The 16 to 18-passenger aircraft was viewed by dozens of spectators, including some Arlington city council members and the city manager.

It now heads out to Alaska for some cold tests. It is one of five prototypes. The company hopes to have it certified by next year and on the market by 2014.

--Yamil Berard

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