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Helping the Navy fly

Mayor Jim Kenney, former Gov. Tom Ridge and Navy and Leonardo officials stand in front of the new TH-73A training helicopter.
U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Kenneth Whitesell (right) holds up the keys to a new TH-73A training helicopter given to him by Bill Hunt, CEO of Leonardo Helicopters U.S.
Leonardo Helicopters U.S. CEO Bill Hunt (center, back), an Archbishop Ryan graduate, thanked the Ryan chorus for performing at the debut of the company’s new helicopter.
Former Gov. Tom Ridge greeted the Archbishop Ryan chorus, director Vince DiFrancesco, director of institutional management Mary Anne Benner and principal/interim president Joe McFadden.

Leonardo Helicopters, 3050 Red Lion Road, last week provided the U.S. Navy with the first of many TH-73A training helicopters.

Bill Hunt, CEO of Leonardo Helicopters U.S., presented the keys to the first helicopter to Navy Vice Admiral Kenneth Whitesell during a June 10 ceremony.

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Leonardo, headquartered in Italy, will build 130 aircraft by the end of its contract in 2024.

TH-73A will serve as the training system for current and future student aviators for the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and NATO allies. The fleet will operate at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, in Florida.

Attending the ceremony were Mayor Jim Kenney, former Gov. Tom Ridge, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, state Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin and aides to U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and Rep. Dwight Evans.

The chorus at Archbishop Ryan High School — Hunt’s alma mater — sang the national anthem and God Bless America and led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Gian Piero Cutillo, Leonardo’s managing director, was impressed with the high number of veterans in the Red Lion Road facility’s workforce. He added that the Navy’s professional training of aviators will lead to successful missions.

“We are honored to have the U.S. Navy as a customer,” he said, adding that he hopes the partnership is long term.

Kenney thanked Leonardo for providing career jobs and for its commitment to Philadelphia and dedication to the United States. He described the company as a “gem” in the city’s manufacturing panoply. Formerly known as AgustaWestland, the company has been in operation in Philadelphia for 40 years.

“Please stay for another 40,” Kenney said.

Davin, too, understands the company’s local influence.

“Leonardo is a huge contributor to the regional economy,” he said.

Hunt, who has been with the company for 15 years, said the ceremony marked a great day for the Navy, Leonardo, the city and the Northeast, which he called “my home.” He called Ridge, a former board chairman of AgustaWestland, an “American statesman” and thanked him for being a champion for the company.

The contract was awarded in January 2020, and Hunt said the company stressed safety during the pandemic. He thanked employees for their hard work and dedication and company officials in Italy for support.

“This was a true team effort,” he said.

Hunt is excited that the first TH-73A is in Navy hands and is looking forward to the “many more that will follow.”

Whitesell described Leonardo as an innovative company that offers expertise in the aviation field. He called the TH-73A a “truly remarkable” aircraft and a “game changer” for the Navy.

Addressing Leonardo employees, Whitesell said they’ll feel pride when they see successful Navy, Marine and Coast Guard missions using the TH-73A.

“You enabled them to be successful,” he said. ••

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