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Donatella Ricci's passion for flying from her world gyroplane record to her role in the NH90, Europe’s most important military helicopter programme

'We are Leonardo', the journey to discover the company's talent, begins with Donatella Ricci. The Rome-born astrophysicist has experienced different realities within the group, from space and electronics, right the way through to helicopters. Since 2012, she has been working on the NH90 multinational programme at Tessera, near Venice, and continues to cultivate her passion for flying.

Astrophysicist

Astrophysicist

In the Group since 2022

In the Group since 2022

Helicopters

Helicopters

Tessera (Ve)

Tessera (Ve)

Donatella, who acquired her doctorate at the Sapienza University of Rome, is an astrophysicist and Programme Manager at the Leonardo Venice - Tessera site, who currently works on the NH90 programme. In 1996, she started her professional career at Telespazio, which joined the group in 2002, later moving to SELEX Galileo in 2009 and AgustaWestland in 2012, two companies that merged with Leonardo in 2015.

Donatella monitors and solves the issues of obsolescence in NH90 helicopters, the world's first fully fly-by-wire helicopter, which was developed in the 1990s through a joint venture between Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Used by the armed forces in several countries, with 470 units in service worldwide, the NH90 is a twin-engine, multi-role helicopter, extensively made of composite materials.

Donatella has worked on several major projects during her career at Leonardo. However, she sees the NH90 as the “most beautiful and technological” challenge she has ever faced: "I remember the first time I joined the company and did a tour of the plant, walking past the assembly line", recalls Donatella, “I was fascinated but at the same time speechless at seeing so much grandeur and technology”.

With a great passion for flying, in 2000, Donatella began flying hot-air balloons. In 2015, this led on to  her embarking on another challenge to break the World Altitude Record in a gyroplane, - a cross between a helicopter and an aeroplane - reaching over 8,400 metres/27,556 feet (turboprops go as far as 20,000, the same altitude as helicopters). “This is an all-Italian record, achieved in Italy in an Italian machine. And it’s also a female record, which makes it even more significant.t”, states Donatella, “
A passion for flying certainly has a predominant bearing on my work. Also, working on a colossus of the air like the NH90 definitely fulfils my passion for flying. On a global level, in my opinion, Leonardo really does represent the best of Italy’s export potential”.