AgustaWestland Buys Out Bell’s BA609 Stake
AgustaWestland is purchasing full ownership of the BA609 civil tiltrotor program from Bell Helicopter, the companies announced today at the Paris Air Show. As a result, the aircraft now has been redesignated as the AW609. Under the proposed agreement, subject to regulatory approval, Bell will continue to provide engineering, program management services and key component manufacture on the AW609. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Announced in 1996, the 609 was originally a partnership between Boeing and Bell. At that time the six to nine-passenger civil tiltrotor was priced at $8 million; however, the current unit cost is believed to be approaching $30 million. After Boeing withdrew from the program, Bell and Agusta formed the Bell/Agusta Aircraft Company in 1998 to develop the BA609 as a joint venture. The first 609 prototype flew in 2003 and a second joined the program in 2007, and the pair has accumulated approximately 600 flight test hours. Two more aircraft, said to be under construction, have never appeared. In recent years, discord between the two companies over the program spilled into public view, with AgustaWestland’s former CEO, Giuseppe Orsi, telling the media that the program would move faster if his company had a larger role in it.