The AW609 tiltrotor programme is expected to start icing trials soon following recent ground and flight testing activities. These advances have been made in support of FAA certification, which remains on track for 2018.
The third prototype, based at Leonardo’s facility in Philadelphia, performed several weeks of unrestrained ground testing and, more recently, flight trials that allowed avionics and all systems to be fully tested. During initial flights, the aircraft performed basic hovering and manoeuvring and patterns around the airport, concluding with hover landing. Additional flights up to altitudes of 4,000 feet with short take-off and landing (STOL) are planned shortly.
The aircraft will undergo icing trials in Marquette, Michigan, through the winter. The tests will ensure the AW609 can fly in known icing conditions and reach operational standards not currently available in any other commercial aircraft.
The fourth AW609 prototype is now located within the main production area of the Philadelphia facility’s assembly line to ensure a smooth transition to the first production build aircraft, also planned for 2018. The unique flight characteristics of the AW609 combine the benefits of a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft into one aircraft. Flying above adverse weather conditions with up to nine people in comfort or a combination of stretchers and medical attendants in a pressurised cabin with turboprop-like speed and performance, the AW609 represents the nextgeneration of aircraft transport.
With agreements for nearly 60 units from customers around the world, including the intention of the UAE Joint Aviation Command to take delivery of three aircraft, the AW609 is capable of diverse missions, including patrol and search and rescue, offshore transport, executive/private transport and homeland security roles. Development agreements are in place with Bristow Group and Era Group, for offshore and EMS variants, respectively.