Donald McKelvy
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14 August 2009
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"AW609 closer to certification"
2015-03-31 09:32:51
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]


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Published on Mar 3, 2015

The AW609 TiltRotor revolutionises flying in the commercial vertical flight. Demonstrating AgustaWestland's commitment to innovation, it uniquely combines the attributes of fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. It has the speed, range and altiture above-the-weather capability of a fixed-wing turboprop coupled with the vertical take-off and landing versatility of a helicopter.
One would hope so after all this time. If it gets a ticket in 2017 it will still have taken five years longer than Concorde. I wonder how much it has cost, and how much of that has already been written off?
Published on Mar 5, 2015

AgustaWestland announced at HAI 2015 it will build the world's first civilian tiltrotor aircraft in Philadelphia. Test pilot Paul Edwards describes the aircraft and its mission.
"AgustaWestland to build AW609 in Philadelphia"
by Mark Huber
- March 3, 2015, 9:10 AM


AgustaWestland announced last night that the AW609 civil tiltrotor will be manufactured at its plant in Philadelphia, Pa. and that most flight test activity will be moving to the U.S. AgustaWestland also revealed significant payload and range improvements for the 609 that could potentially give it an mtow equal to or in excess of 17,500 pounds in STOL or running takeoffs and a standard maximum range without reserves of 750 nm or 1,100 nm with auxiliary fuel tanks. Maximum cruise speed will remain 275 knots at 25,000 feet.

Program manager Clive Scott said he expects the AW609 to be priced comparable to a conventional super-medium helicopter when customer deliveries begin in 2018 after anticipated FAA certification in late 2017. Scott expects the price to be announced by year’s end, and he added that a speculated price of $24 million “was not far off.” AgustaWestland is expected to announce a major offshore energy customer for the AW609 at 10:45 a.m. today, at an event at the company’s booth.

Scott said that AgustaWestland had made substantial progress since buying out Bell Helicopter’s share of the program in 2011 and becoming the official type certificate applicant in 2012, with significant systems changes, airframe improvements and overall aircraft optimizations. The two flying prototypes–one in Texas and the other in Italy–together have accumulated more than 1,000 flight test hours, 600 of those in the last three years, about half of the estimated 2,000 hours required for certification, Scott said. That includes completing the flight envelope expansion and autorotation testing in 2014.

Over the course of 10 flight hours AW609 test aircraft made more than 79 power-off conversions from airplane to helicopter mode. AgustaWestland said the tests covered the full windmilling and autorotation envelope and that “the performance of the aircraft exceeded expected characteristics seen during [flight] preparation in the engineering simulator.” The company characterized aircraft handling during autorotation as “benign.” The Society of Experimental Test Pilots awarded AW609 pilots Dan Wells, Paul Edwards and Pietro Venanzi, the prestigious 2014 Iven C. Kincheloe award for their roles in those autorotation tests.

Two more test aircraft are scheduled to join the program and will be based in Philadelphia. Aircraft 3 is currently being assembled at AgustaWestland’s plant in Vergiate, Italy and should fly there in late spring before being shipped to Philadelphia where it will be based for a variety of testing, including critical icing trials at the end of this year. Aircraft 4 will be assembled in Philadelphia and used for flight testing as well as industrialization purposes. Scott expects Aircraft 4 to be fully conforming and fitted with all systems identical to a production model. He said the fuselage for Aircraft 4 was already “on its way” to Philadelphia and that assembly of the entire aircraft likely would begin there late this year.

AgustaWestland Philadelphia president Bill Hunt said that the assembly of Aircraft 4 would be performed is a segregated part of the plant and that two to three customer aircraft will be assembled there beginning in 2017 as part of a gradual production ramp-up. Once production matures Hunt said he expects a second AW609 assembly line to be established in Italy. AgustaWestland Philadelphia currently assembles the AW139 medium twin and the AW119KXe single and soon will begin production of the new AW169 twin. Hunt said that a large part of the AW609 engineering staff, currently working at AgustaWestland’s Arlington, Texas facility, will move to Philadelphia over the next year as more, but not all, of the flight test program gravitates there. Philadelphia also will have primary responsibility for AW609 product support.

Changes and Updates

Scott enumerated recent changes to the AW609. On Aircraft 2 in Italy these include changes to the air data computers and inertial reference platforms, an updated version of the fly-by-wire software, an upgraded flight control system, an automatic test system and a new pitot-static system, which now uses the same system installed on the AW139 medium twin.

Meanwhile both Aircraft 1, based at AgustaWestland’s Arlington facility, and Aircraft 2 have been flying Category A takeoff and rejected takeoff profiles that are producing better-than-expected performance numbers, Scott said. Overall performance is better due to greater-than-expected benefits from ground effect, recent aerodynamic improvements that reduced weight and cut drag by 10 percent, the ability of the AW609 to slow itself on one engine and the robustness of the landing gear. “We can put the proprotors in super-droop and slow the aircraft down very quickly,” Scott said.

The airframe improvements came in part after delaying the program for vendor re-selection in 2013 on certain components and some aircraft redesign, Scott said. “We were unhappy with some components in terms of performance, weight or cost. So for the last three years we have been working hard to ensure that the aircraft is not only technically acceptable but financially acceptable to the market in terms of acquisition and operating costs. We have significantly reduced the manufacturing cost of the aircraft, by more than 10 percent.”

Part of this activity involved the redesign of the main cabin door. The new door is a two-piece clamshell design with an integrated step that is 35 inches wide and lighter than the one-piece door it replaces. Scott said this will allow the AW609 to be manufactured with the same door for all missions–SAR, EMS and VIP transport–and this is particularly practical in SAR configuration with a hoist. This practicality can be observed first-hand at Heli-Expo, as AgustaWestland has two AW609 mockups at the show, one in SAR and the other in executive/VIP configuration.

Scott said that 2015 is a big year for the AW609 program because “certification flight testing begins now in earnest” as well as other milestones including fuselage fatigue testing. “We’ve done all the development testing and all of the autorotation and performance work. Now is the time to knuckle down with the FAA” for flight testing and demonstrating other items such as the cockpit man-machine interface.

Scott noted that most vendors for the program, including Rockwell Collins for the Pro Line Fusion-based avionics, BAE for the flight control systems and Pratt & Whitney Canada for the PT6C-67A engines, already have been announced and that a few more announcements will be forthcoming for items including landing gear and the environmental control system.
Will it fly above or below the triggered lightning that is annoying so many of my broad-shouldered colleagues?

LowObservable said:
One would hope so after all this time. If it gets a ticket in 2017 it will still have taken five years longer than Concorde. I wonder how much it has cost, and how much of that has already been written off?
How true!
New aircraft catagory + supreme bureaucratic organization (FAA) = some number less than infinity
LowObservable said:
One would hope so after all this time. If it gets a ticket in 2017 it will still have taken five years longer than Concorde. I wonder how much it has cost, and how much of that has already been written off?

I too would be interested to know how much money Boeing and Bell Helicopter invested in the 609 project before the project was entirely taken over by AgustaWestland.
Triton said:
I too would be interested to know how much money Boeing and Bell Helicopter invested in the 609 project before the project was entirely taken over by AgustaWestland.

I don't recall Boeing being invested in the BA609 at any stage. This was a Bell-Agusta project, not a Bell-Boeing one.
Skyblazer said:
I don't recall Boeing being invested in the BA609 at any stage. This was a Bell-Agusta project, not a Bell-Boeing one.

Your mileage may vary...

In 1996, Bell and Boeing had formed a partnership to develop a civil tiltrotor aircraft; however, in March 1998, it was announced that Boeing had pulled out of the project. In September 1998, it was announced that Agusta had become a partner in the development program. This led to the establishment of the Bell/Agusta Aerospace Company (BAAC), a joint venture between Bell Helicopter and AgustaWestland, to develop and manufacture the aircraft. The Italian government subsidized Agusta's development of a military tiltrotor, and as the AW609 has civilian aspects, the European Commission requires AgustaWestland to pay back progressive amounts per aircraft to the Italian State to avoid a distortion of competition.

Boeing thought the 609 concept was to small and would not reach enough of a market for it to be profitable. They pulled out and Bell was not overly upset at the prospect of loosing their partner.
Triton said:
Your mileage may vary...

In 1996, Bell and Boeing had formed a partnership to develop a civil tiltrotor aircraft; however, in March 1998, it was announced that Boeing had pulled out of the project.

Oh. Thanks for this! I really didn't remember Boeing's involvement in this project at an early stage.
Can't find what it was called at that stage either, as AB-609 seems to be the earliest designation I can find (1999) and it already was an Agusta-Bell team-up by then. I also came across HV-609, T-609 and UC-609 (for planned SAR, trainer and utility version, respectively), presumably from the same period.
Skyblazer said:
Oh. Thanks for this! I really didn't remember Boeing's involvement in this project at an early stage.
Can't find what it was called at that stage either, as AB-609 seems to be the earliest designation I can find (1999) and it already was an Agusta-Bell team-up by then. I also came across HV-609, T-609 and UC-609 (for planned SAR, trainer and utility version, respectively), presumably from the same period.

Bell-Boeing 609?

"BA609 - What was supposed to be"
March 08, 2011


A friend found an old Boeing press release about the launch of the then Bell-Boeing 609 civil tilt-rotor aircraft way back in November 1997. There were a couple of notable statements made then that stand out now.

So far the Bell Boeing tiltrotor team reports sales commitments for the first civil tiltrotor, the Bell Boeing 609, to be fast approaching the 50 aircraft benchmark.

And this one:

Completion of the first four aircraft prototypes will take place in 1998 with first flight in 1999, certification by the Federal Aviation Administration and first customer delivery in 2001.

A year later Boeing pulled out of the program and Bell sold an interest to Agusta Aerospace, now AgustaWestland. At tone point Bell said it had 80 plus commitments, but the last time anyone commented on the status of orders/commitments it was "around 40."

Successive management teams at Bell have doubted the market for the aircraft, now estimated to cost $20 million or more each, and given the now BA609 a low priority for development funding. AgustaWestland, on the other hand remains a stout advocate and has been negotiating with Bell for years to either sell its interest in the aircraft or increase funding to finish development and testing and achieve certification.

It was reported Sunday that AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi, a strong BA609 advocate, had said Bell had agreed to turn over the technology, but an AgustaWestland official said that was not accurate.

- Bob Cox


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yasotay said:
Boeing thought the 609 concept was to small and would not reach enough of a market for it to be profitable. They pulled out and Bell was not overly upset at the prospect of loosing their partner.

I was hoping that the 609 would have been the first in a family of civilian tilt-rotor products from the Bell-Boeing partnership. Certainly the NASA CTR studies had me excited about general aviation and commercial aviation-sized tilt-rotors. I was hoping that Bell would handle the general aviation part of the business while Boeing handled the commercial aviation part of the business. When Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas, it wasn't clear whether Boeing was disinterested in the general aviation business or if the spinoff of assets to form MD Helicopters was required by Federal regulators.

Boeing also owned DeHavilland Canada from 1986 to 1992, but maybe that was more related to what became known as the "Airbus affair."
Thanks a lot for the additional info and pics, Triton. I really do wonder how this early Bell-Boeing connection could escape me, but somehow it did.

Like you, I thought the CTR studies (and the huge amount of research into tilt-rotor led by NASA, Bell and Boeing since the early 1970s) were a sign that some concrete civilian applications of tilt-rotor technology were on the way... I mean, in the late 1980s tilt-rotors were the thing. Tilt-rotor attack projects, tilt-rotor airliner projects, a whole family of tri-service V-22s, the Ishida project... Certainly it would not have been conceivable at the time that 25 years later we'd be with only a couple of V-22 variants around, a tentative civilian model searching for a market and no marked edge of that technology over the other alternatives. Reversely, the ABC concept which had been discarded at the time has now come back in full force through the improved X2 technology!
"AgustaWestland prepares for AW609 certification push"
16 September, 2015 BY: Dominic Perry London


AgustaWestland will fly the third prototype of its AW609 tiltrotor late this year as the manufacturer accelerates testing activity ahead of planned certification in 2017.

Two flight-test articles dating from the early days of the programme, then a joint development with Bell, have been used for the validation campaign so far and have amassed 1,300h, alongside 300h of ground runs.

But with the initial aircraft "now reaching the end of its useful life", according to Paul Edwards, experimental test pilot at AgustaWestland, the arrival of two subsequent prototypes is required to attain US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval.

Prototype three is "in final build" at the manufacturer's plant in Vergiate, Italy, he told a conference on future rotorcraft on 14 September. It will be transported to its Philadelphia, Pennsylvania facility – the location of the tiltrotor’s eventual final assembly line – late this year, to be used for icing trials and then cold weather testing.

The fourth flight-test article, which will have the production standard cockpit installed, is also being produced in Philadelphia.

Service entry is scheduled for 2018, says Edwards, and he anticipates rapid take-up of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-powered type.

"This aircraft is going to be part of the aviation fabric far more quickly than a lot of people realise," he says.

With no certification standard existing for the tiltrotor, AgustaWestland has worked with the FAA to develop hybrid rules – the Powered Lift Certification Requirement – that draw on regulations from both the fixed- and rotary-wing worlds.

These involve proving that the aircraft can perform both gliding and autorotation landings in the event of engine failure, as well as rapid reconversion from forward flight, and flare before touchdown.

So far, 28 power-off reconversions have been performed, says Edwards, although he cautions that it has yet to pass certification trials for the engine-out state.

Edwards says the evaluations have also dispelled the view that tiltrotors are particularly vulnerable to vortex ring settling.

"Tiltrotors are not susceptible to vortex ring," says Edwards. "We had to try really hard to get there."

"It was about to fly itself out when we applied the recovery technique. Both rotors are not going to enter vortex ring simultaneously – it slides sideways to get itself out."

Describing the AW609’s capability, Edwards highlights toa recent flight he performed from Yeovil in the UK to Cascina Costa in Italy. The 627nm (1,160km) sector was completed in just 2h 18min, albeit with a “strong tail wind”.
A halfway house between a tilt rotor and a tilt wing?

Notables such as Burt Rutan appear to have favoured tilt wings

Somewhat related are the early comments in the SOFTA discussion on this forum
Bell-Boeing 609 print found on eBay.



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UAE Picks AW609 for Tiltrotor Requirement

DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates has selected the AW609 design from AgustaWestland to fulfill its requirement for a tiltrotor search and rescue aircraft, the Armed Forces' Joint Aviation Command announced Tuesday.

The selection of the AW609, which was chosen over Bell Boeing's V-22 design, gives a launch customer for the SAR design of the aircraft — and appeared to catch the Bell Boeing team by surprise, with a Bell executive expressing hope for a deal with the UAE to Defense News just fifteen minutes before the announcement.

Delivery of the first three aircraft is expected to start in the "2019 timeframe," AgustaWestland said in a release, while the UAE holds options on three more aircraft. The systems will be operated by the UAE's Joint Aviation Command.
Very good news for that program at a critical time after the tragic lose of two great test pilots and the challenge it presents toward certification. With this "military" acquistion I wonder if the same certifications will be expected? Given the UAE's position with the US, I wonder if there will be some pressure for the US government to not overly delay the process that no doubt will see a certain amount of delay. Given that the FAA is the poster child for bureaucratic lethargy, I anticipate years of bungling. I hope I am wrong on this.
A few news reports from last year:

AC5, the first production AW609, is in final assembly at Philadelphia, and when AIN visited in September, the wing and fuselage had not yet been married. First flight is expected sometime during 2020. Sunick was uncertain if the aircraft would be delivered to launch customer Era Group as soon as possible following certification, or if the aircraft would be used initially as a demonstrator and sales tool.

Sunick also described a program to extend the range of the AW609, using external, underwing tanks. “Leonardo is still finalizing the design for the auxiliary fuel tanks [which are estimated to provide a combined total of 900 pounds of additional fuel] and as such, they won’t be available at the aircraft’s initial FAA certification.” The design work is being carried out at the Cascina Costa di Samarate facility in Italy.

Also in the summer of 2020, Leonardo intends to open a helicopter training academy in Philadelphia, with the first level D FFS AW609 simulator, which is being developed with CAE to be based alongside an AW169 simulator. Instructors for the AW609 have already been sourced from American military personnel with V-22 experience.
First time I came across the 609 was 1997 issue of AirForces Monthly (AFM) when it was then Bell/Boeing Concept looking at smaller Tilt rotor to fill likes of distinguished visitor and other missions for the US military marketplace.
Then it became BellAgusta venture and I saw mock up first at Farnborough 98 then following year at Helitech (or wellytech as lots of exhibitors and attendees dubbed at Redhill because it rained and flooded. 99 was the last year they held it at Redhill and moved it up here to Imperial War Museum Duxford).

So here are my photos from 98 and 99



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Come 2 decades ago at Le Bourget I saw cabin mock up for the Maritime mission at the Finmeccanica Chalet (my photos below)



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Come Heli Expo 2007 Orlando I saw the mock up again then following year at Farnborough Air Show 2008 got to see first prototype perform so here are my pics from Orlando and Farnborough (pre DSLR days!!)



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Sevral years later at Heli Expo 2014 (Anaheim) and 2015 (Orlando) I came across the second (I think) AW609 N609TR so here are my photos from both shows, albeit 2014 it was demo flight then followign year in Orlando in static. At the time of the 2015 show, it was painted in Bristow Group colors with Bristow Helicopters stencilled on port side and their airline subsidiary Eastern Airways on the starboard side because both Bristow and then AW signed agreement to further ahead tilt rotor development. Their aim in the offshore support marketplace is to transport the average oil worker (or roughneck as we call them here in UK!!) to far off shore rigs without the need to fly workers say from Aberdeen Dyce International to Sumburgh by Eastern Airways, then by helicopter onwards. So with tilt rotor, cut out the fixed wing side. Same situ with Australia (though sadly Bristow Australia have ceased ops) with their sub Air North flying the workers to an airport and helo takes them onwards.



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Last edited:
Later in July I attended RNAS Yeovilton Air Day 2015 and then the following day with 100 Years of AgustaWestland and tragically the last time I saw N609AG so here are my photos.

In October 31st, it crashed in Italy killing both the US and Italian company test pilots.


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In happier times after when the 609 cleared to fly again for more test and evaluation, come Sept 2019, I attended the 1000th AW139 event at Verigiate so here are my photos of N609TR performing.

And this week N609PH the fourth a/c is in Vergiate having been shipped across the Atlantic from Philadelphia so fingers crossed happy days ahead.



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Then a fortnight ago i attended Dubai Air Show and saw AC4 (N609PH) as it made its first appearance in the region after flying all the way from Cascina Costa over a three day period. It was there for Expo 2020.

Anyhow here are my pics below.



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Let us hope that the certification FINALLY gets approved this year.
An interesting approach to non-governmental/govermental testing and demonstration of capability. I thought UAE was also on tap for a few 609? I guess UAE is waiting for full civil certification (?)

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