The Italian civil aviation authority, Ente Nazionale Aviazione Civile, has concluded the first stage of qualification and authorisation tests to create a helicopter low-altitude instrument flight rules (IFR) route between Turin and Venice in Italy.

The low IFR routes will be integrated into the airspace system and will utilise flight levels where icing conditions are not normally experienced and where a pressurised cabin or oxygen would be required.

Helicopters will use these routes in adverse weather conditions avoiding the conventional medium level IFR routes normally used by fixed-winged aircraft.

An AW139 medium twin engine helicopter equipped to monitor and process the data generated by ground- and satellite-based navigation systems was used for the trials.

During the flight on a 210nm (around 385km) route, the aircraft’s radar coverage and navigational accuracy was evaluated with the help of an Italian air navigation firm, Ente Nazionale Assistenza al Volo.

AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi said the successful tests represent a significant step forward paving the path for further exploitation of rotary-winged aircraft flexibility, safety and cost/effectiveness to the benefit of a larger number of end-users.