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.
Coming off what CEO Mike Redenbaugh called “Bell’s best year in decades,” the company plans to unveil–literally–a new light helicopter this morning at 11:30 a.m. here at Heli-Expo.
The second Bell Agusta BA609 (S/N 60002) made its first ground run on July 13 at AgustaWestland’s facility in Cameri, Italy. First flight of S/N 60002 is expected in the third quarter. Bell Agusta will manufacture four prototype BA609 tiltrotors for flight-testing in the U.S. and Italy to obtain scheduled certification in 2009.