- Aug 14, 2009
- Reaction score
"AW609 closer to certification"
by Robert Erdos
by Robert Erdos
AgustaWestland’s AW609 TiltRotor made its debut on static display at Heli-Expo 2015, as the manufacturer provided attendees with an update on the progress of the aircraft’s flight test program as well as announcing a new “platform development agreement” with Bristow.
During a special presentation, AgustaWestland test pilots Dan Wells and Paul Edwards described the progress made on the program, with engine upgrades, landing gear modifications and optimized flight control techniques allowing the flight envelope to expand to 18,000-pound (8,165-kilogram) maximum weight, 293 knots equivalent airspeed, and 30,000 feet. The manufacturer said the test results validate a sizeable increase in useful load that provides users with the capability to fly 500 nautical miles point-to-point with a full load of nine passengers in two hours.
The company has two flying prototypes — one based in Arlington, Texas, and one based in Italy — that have logged nearly 1,200 flight hours. Two more prototypes will join the program. The certification basis, which has been finalized with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, is an amalgamation of Federal Aviation Regulation Parts 25 and 29, with additional stipulations specific to its tiltrotor configuration. The manufacturer is aiming for civil certification in 2017.
Flight tests so far have included stalls and aeroservoelastic structural tests. Wells and Edwards detailed the successful outcome of recent autorotation tests, wherein the AW609 simulated a dual engine failure while cruising in airplane mode, and performed an emergency reconversion maneuver to autorotate in helicopter mode. The pair said one-engine inoperative performance was equivalent to helicopter Category A performance.
The AW609 incorporates a fly-by-wire flight control system that is intended to simplify operation. It features programmed nacelle tilt presets that make conversion to airplane mode push button simple, according to the test pilots. Flight envelope protection and variable control feel further aid safety and handling.
Future developments include underwing auxiliary fuel tanks that will increase range and endurance, boosting the aircraft’s maximum range to 1,100 nautical miles (2,038 kilometers) and allowing users to transport six passengers over a range of 800 nautical miles (1,482 kilometers) in a little over three hours.
The AgustaWestland AW609 appeared at Heli-Expo in a custom Bristow/Eastern Airways livery in recognition of a development agreement between the operator and manufacturer. Jay Miller/AgustaWestland Photo
The cabin door is also being enlarged on all variants to improve access, in particular for search-and-rescue and emergency medical services operations.
In the cockpit, the AW609 will have a new fully integrated Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion flight deck, combined with upgraded flight computers and sensors to provide pilots with the very latest features to manage and monitor flight activities and make flying safer.
The aircraft on display at Heli-Expo featured a custom Bristow/Eastern Airways paint scheme in recognition of the development agreement announced at the show (the Bristow Group owns a 60 percent share in Eastern Airways). The agreement envisages AgustaWestland and Bristow working closely on a number of activities in support of AW609 program development, addressing concepts around operations, regulations, maintenance, configuration optimization, as well as identifying possible areas of enhancement or modifications.
Under the agreement, AgustaWestland and Bristow will work to support the development of oil-and-gas and search-and-rescue configurations and capabilities, with the companies contributing to flying activities towards aircraft maturity and to address commercial aspects for future AW609 acquisitions.
AgustaWestland said the signing of the agreement was a major milestone in the development of the first commercial tiltrotor towards U.S. Federal Aviation Administration certification, which is scheduled for 2017.
For Bristow, the agreement follows strategic investments in Airnorth and Eastern Airways, which have allowed the operator to provide a one-stop fixed-wing and helicopter transportation solution for customers.
“We see tremendous opportunities for this aircraft for our clients who are flying to more remote and hostile environments,” said Bristow president and CEO Jonathan Baliff. “With [the AW609’s] vertical lift and landing capabilities combined with increased speed, extended range and airline-style amenities, Bristow will be able to provide more value to clients by offering complete logistics solutions with one aircraft type that will take them faster and farther offshore.”
The AW609 is foreseen to fill a niche for a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft with a cruising speed beyond the reach of conventional helicopters. It will feature nine seats, pressurization for flights up to 25,000 feet, and certification for flight into known icing. So far, the company has logged orders from 60 customers./quote]