The Royal New Zealand Defence Force has conducted flight tests on the first of five A109 helicopters delivered by AgustaWestland.

The A109 light utility helicopters, capable of carrying three crew and up to five passengers, will replace the Sioux aircraft currently used by RNZAF as training helicopters.

The RNZAF will use the A109 helicopters to train pilots and helicopter crew for the force’s newly acquired heavier-duty NH90s.

The RNZAF will receive the first two of the A109s by the end of 2010. They will perform light roles such as moving small groups, carrying light loads and rescue work with a winch.

The remaining A109 helicopters will be delivered to the RNZAF in July 2011.

On 8 May 2008, the New Zealand Government and AgustaWestland signed a contract for five A109LUH (NZ) and a simulator.

The A109 helicopter has a maximum cruise speed of 285km/h and can carry up to 600kg of useful load on the cargo hook.