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.
On Monday, Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland revealed that it has been secretly flying an all-electric vertical takeoff and landing demonstration aircraft powered by twin-electric, direct-drive tiltrotors. The “Project Zero” tiltrotor was designed and built in six months by the company’s advanced concepts group and has been flying since 2011.
On Monday at Heli-Expo, AgustaWestland revealed that it has been secretly flying an all-electric vertical takeoff and landing demonstration aircraft powered by twin-electric, direct-drive tiltrotors. The “Project Zero” tiltrotor was designed and built in six months by the company’s advanced concepts group and has been flying since 2011. It features elevons for pitch and roll control and in forward flight, a V-tail for longitudinal stability, and a lifting body design with two integrated tiltrotors than can be tilted through 90 degrees.
Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison said his company wanted to get the U.S. Army’s business back and he sees the proposed Joint Multi-Role (JMR) helicopter as a vehicle to do just that.
Bell is submitting a proposal featuring its tiltrotor technology for Phase 1 of the JMR competition on March 6. Other entries are expected from a newly formed Boeing-Sikorsky alliance and AVX Technologies.
March 6 will be a big day for helicopter OEMs and could shape the future of the industry for decades to come. Phase One proposals are due into the Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate by tomorrow that likely will lead to the construction of Joint Multi-Role demonstration aircraft (JMR TD) that could fly as early as 2017 and lead to the start of production aircraft between 2025 and 2030.
The FAA’s final rule on civil tiltrotor noise limits and conditions for noise compliance measurement becomes effective March 11. It amends regulations governing noise certification standards and establishes new noise limits and procedures to ensure that noise-reduction technology is incorporated in tiltrotors.
Bell Helicopter is preparing to start assembling the first prototype of the 525 Relentless super-medium twin later this year at its facility in Amarillo, Texas. Four more prototypes are expected to join the test program before certification in 2015. Bell and its suppliers have begun manufacturing parts for the helicopter, which was announced in February last year and is slated to fly for the first time next year.
Boeing and Sikorsky Aircraft signed a teaming agreement to submit a joint proposal for the U.S. Army’s Joint Multi-Role (JMR) technology demonstration (TD), phase one. The effort aims to develop the Army’s next-generation medium helicopter. The two companies said they are prepared to “build and fly one or more” medium-sized demonstrator aircraft in 2017, the program’s first-flight milestone.
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.”