AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, is pleased to announce that it has finalised the transaction with Bell Helicopter Textron for the acquisition of the 609 tiltrotor programme. All legal and regulatory approvals have now been successfully completed.
The development of the AW609 tiltrotor programme is now moving forward under full AgustaWestland control with civil certification expected in late 2015, early 2016 and deliveries following immediately afterwards. Additionally AgustaWestland has plans to introduce a new generation satellite based navigation system and mission avionics to enable all weather operations and increase the aircraft's operational capabilities. A new state-of-the-art avionics architecture will provide the pilot with increased situational awareness and a reduced workload.
The first two prototypes have achieved more than 600 flight hours so far and have validated the AW609's unique flight envelope including the ability to fly at altitudes of up to 25,000 feet and cruise at speeds up to 275 knots, all at the aircraft's maximum weight. The test programme continues to check all the points of the flight envelope, 85% of which has been completed, as required by both the FAA and EASA. Two further aircraft will join the test programme to complete the certification programme.
The third prototype, now being manufactured in Italy, will be devoted to icing certification testing while the fourth prototype will be used for the development and integration of new avionics and mission avionics. Additionally, STOL (short takeoff and landing) procedures will be investigated in order to permit operations at increased maximum gross weights to further enhance the AW609's operational capability for specific applications.
AgustaWestland announced the acquisition of ownership of the programme in June. Bell Agusta Aerospace Company (BAAC) will be renamed and will remain a US company being the new type certificate applicant to the FAA. The new company will be totally owned by AgustaWestland. The AW609 programme is to be managed by a single Integrated Development Team, based in Cascina Costa, Italy. AgustaWestland will also open a new operational base in Arlington, Texas, to manage US based tiltrotor operations.
The tiltrotor concept is the answer to the growing need for an aircraft matching the vertical capabilities of the helicopter with the speed, range and altitude capabilities of fixed wing aircraft. AgustaWestland is investing in the next generation of rotorcraft technologies and the AW609 and future tiltrotor concepts are part of the company's innovation commitment.
Preliminary orders for approximately 70 AW609s have been placed by around 40 customers in over 20 countries to perform a range of commercial and government roles. The AW609 provides customers with a new way to fly and AgustaWestland expects significant worldwide market opportunities for the aircraft with no aircraft in the market place that can come close to offering a similar capability.
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