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.
When someone mentions the perils of “aging aircraft,” most people probably think about airplanes, usually large ones like the Aloha Airlines Boeing 737 that suffered a ripped-open fuselage in April 1988, or of wings folding on firefighting air tankers, as happened to a C-130A in Walker, Calif., and a P4Y-2 near Estes Park, Colo., both in 2002.
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.
AgustaWestland A109S Grand
The order book for this uprated 109 variant currently stands at almost 60. AgustaWestland received EASA approval for the type in June (as its first customer, a Briton, took delivery) and FAA certification is expected by next month. The company planned to have delivered five airframes by press time and 10 more later this year.
By some accounts, riding as a passenger in the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey military tiltrotor is memorable not for its comfort level but because of the aircraft’s pronounced vibrations.