Bell Helicopter has a contract to supply 45 Eagle Eye unmanned tiltrotors to the U.S. Coast Guard beginning in 2007 but with its own funds is already building what it calls a “risk-reduction prototype” and plans to have it flying by this fall. A full-scale mockup of the Eagle Eye is on static display on the ramp side of Bell’s Paris Air Show chalet (A378).
United Technologies subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft announced at the American Helicopter Society annual forum earlier this month that it plans to build an experimental helicopter using a coaxial main rotor system that it says will achieve cruise speeds well above that of conventional helicopters. Coaxial helicopters have two counterrotating rotors on the same vertical axis.
Unless you have stood next to a Bell/Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor–and you won’t be able to at Le Bourget this week because it’s not here–it is difficult to fully comprehend what an impressive piece of engineering it is and what a struggle of wills it must have taken to bring it to this stage.
The first Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor performed its first full conversion to airplane mode in Texas this past August. The maneuver has become routine, and the ground-breaking aircraft has gone on to pass the 250-knot airspeed milestone.
On November 9, the second Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor prototype made its maiden flight in Italy. The flight took place at an Italian Air Force airfield in Cameri, near Milan. The 52-minute first flight was quickly followed by more test flights. As of November 15, the aircraft had flown in helicopter mode only.
Last week’s transatlantic hop to Farnborough by two Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotors proved the long-range self-deployment capability of the revolutionary tilt-rotor. The daily flying display here by Bell Boeing test pilot Steve Grossmeyer is sure to be one of the highlights for show visitors.
The second prototype of the Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor (S/N 60002) logged its first flight on November 9 at AgustaWestland’s facility in Cameri, Italy. During the flight, which lasted 52 minutes, the nacelle/rotors were tilted 15 degrees forward of vertical thrust. BA609 S/N 60003 is already at Cameri and S/N 60004 is on the assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas.
Bell/Agusta’s BA609 looks nothing like the finished article in the VMSIL. In place of a fuselage and wings, the tiltrotor’s systems, interfaced with an aircraft flight-simulation host computer, are spread across three separate areas in the lab.
Pietro Venanzi took the left seat in the BA609 during the tiltrotor’s return to flight status, at Bell’s XworX center near Fort Worth, Texas, on June 3. The 80-minute hop in aircraft one (A/C1), witnessed by AIN, was not the Italian test pilot’s first time at the controls of the tiltrotor. He had taken them on several occasions alongside project test pilot Roy Hopkins, during the first flight-test phase between February and June 2003.
The first Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor made full conversion to airplane mode near Fort Worth, Texas, in late July. On the eve of returning to Italy to take the reins of aircraft two, Agusta test pilot Pietro Venanzi briefed AIN on what the companies learned from this fundamental expansion of the flight envelope.