AgustaWestland (AW) is performing customer demo flights aboard its prototype tiltrotor AW609 this week at Heli-Expo in Anaheim, Calif., but with the aircraft still early in the certification process few potential customers qualified to get on board. The FAA requires such passengers to be appropriately rated rotorcraft pilots, undergo simulator training in the company’s AW609 simulator, conduct a familiarization flight in the aircraft and receive a second-in-command rating.
For the first time in North America, Italian OEM AgustaWestland (Booth No. 6937) is displaying here at Heli-Expo its complete family of new-generation helicopters, a lineup comprising the AW169, AW139 and AW189, along with the PZL-Swidnik SW-4, which is making its debut Heli-Expo appearance. The three new-generation helicopters cover the four- to eight-ton categories and share a common cockpit layout, design philosophy and maintenance concept.
“The Middle East remains a very important market for AgustaWestland,” said CEO Daniele Romiti on the eve of this year’s Dubai Airshow. “It is a challenging market, where personal relationships have a great importance,” he added.
Deliveries of civil turbine helicopters will recover slowly until they exceed their 2008 peak in 2018 and then reach a demand plateau, according to the Teal Group’s rotorcraft market forecast covering 2013 through 2022. The study predicts that 10,300 civil turbine helicopters worth $60.3 billion will enter service during that period.
AgustaWestland has confirmed reports that certification of the AW609 civil tiltrotor has been pushed out to 2017, a one-year delay. A company spokesman told AIN that the schedule change is the result of numerous upgrades being made to the design in terms of aerodynamics and systems, including new engines, avionics and fly-by-wire flight controls.
When Bell Helicopter sold its remaining stake in the BA609 civil tiltrotor program to partner AgustaWestland about two years ago, industry analysts figured that Bell was exiting this niche market. But might not be the case, since Bell unveiled a next-generation tiltrotor–the Bell V-280 Valor–yesterday at the Army Aviation Association of America (Quad A) convention in Fort Worth, Texas.
AgustaWestland acquired the portion of the 609 program it did not already own from Bell Helicopter in 2011, effectively dissolving the joint venture known as the Bell Agusta Aircraft Co. The 609 program is headquartered at a new AgustaWestland facility in Arlington, Texas, across the field from its previous home at Bell’s XworX. The aircraft are to be certified initially by the FAA in the U.S. under Parts 25 and 29 and a new category called powered lift.
AgustaWestland is giving serious consideration to building production models of the AW609 civil tiltrotor in the U.S., possibly in Texas, a senior executive told AIN last month. Robert LaBelle, managing director of the AgustaWestland TiltRotor Co., said that initially the aircraft will be built partially in Italy and the U.S. but that the ultimate decision on where to conduct final assembly will be “driven by the customer base.” Some 35 percent of that customer base, he noted, is predicted to be in the U.S.
A senior AgustaWestland executive told AIN late last week that the company was giving serious consideration to building production models of the AW609 civil tiltrotor in the U.S., possibly in Texas. Robert LaBelle, managing director of the AgustaWestland Tilt-Rotor Co., said the aircraft initially would be built partially in Italy and the U.S., but that the ultimate decision on where to conduct final assembly would be “driven by the customer base” and that “35 percent of that is predicted to be in the United States.”
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