New Helicopter Coming To Whiting Field, TH-73A Lands April 2021
On Thursday, Congressman Matt Gaetz hosted a livestream on Facebook and YouTube reporting on the status of the new training helicopter, the TH-73A, coming to Naval Air Base Whiting Field.
“I’m proud to tell you that Northwest Florida has been thriving in all that we’ve done to have great partnerships to build out the military mission and ensure that our people benefit as a consequence,” Gaetz said. “Having more military families in Northwest Florida is central to our effort to continue to be the most military-friendly community in the entire nation.”
As part of that ongoing effort to deepen and maintain the connections between the military and Northwest Florida communities, Gaetz expressed that it was far past time to update the helicopter being used at Whiting Field.
“Every other day, we were averaging a helicopter having to return to the base at Whiting Field, not through the air, but on the back of a flatbed truck…,” Gaetz said. “…it was critically important to me that we provide for those students and those aviators but also that we preserved the mission at Whiting.”
Currently, Whiting Field operates with the TH-57 helicopter. The model entered Naval service in January 1968.
On January 13, 2020, Leonardo Helicopters was awarded a $176 million contract for the production of the TH-73A helicopter. The aircraft is intended to replace the TH-57 currently used at Whiting Field. This initial contract of $176 million pays for the production of 32 aircraft. The total contract has an estimated value of $650 million for the production of 130 helicopters.
Leonardo Helicopters beat out Airbus and Bell to win the contract to produce the aircraft.
“We are on track to deliver the first aircraft (TH-73A) April of this year,” said William Hunt, CEO of AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corporation (Agusta), a subsidiary of Leonardo. “These deliveries will continue through 2024.”
Agusta projects that it will deliver 32 aircraft by the end of 2021 and stated that 25 instructors have already been trained on the new aircraft.
The delivery of the TH-73A is expected to grow the mission at Whiting Field and the support infrastructure in the community. Partners in the community will include maintenance personnel and other supporting agents associated with the aircraft.
Construction is currently underway at the Peter Prince airport to develop a corporate office for Leonardo Helicopters and hangar. Two TH-119 helicopters, which the TH-73A is based on, are also currently housed at Bob Sikes Airport for training and support access.
“The Navy relies very heavily upon a contracted service to fly and maintain those aircraft,” said Colonel Jeffrey Pavelko, Training Wing Five Commodore. “For us to maintain that relationship with the local community and the infusion of the next 25, 30 years of this airframe taking us out through the next quarter century just solidifies that relationship we have with the local community even more.”