Just when it looks like the V-22 Osprey program might have a good day, the fates conspire to create more clouds on the horizon.
A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Textron, accusing the Providence, R.I. corporation of misrepresenting to investors information about the V-22 Osprey program. The complaint alleges that Textron violated securities law by issuing a series of “material misrepresentations,” resulting in the inflation of Textron’s stock price.
Proving perhaps that nothing sweeps cleaner than a new broom, Bell Helicopter CEO Mike Redenbaugh, in the job since late May, has announced plans to move Bell’s military helicopter manufacturing out of its historic Fort Worth, Texas facility and into a new site in Amarillo, Texas. The Amarillo site will also handle final assembly for the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, according to a recent message from Redenbaugh.
Bell and Agusta continue their development of the BA609 civil tiltrotor, a joint effort that has been ongoing for more than a decade. However, the future of the program may hinge on the joint venture’s ability to control program costs, speed certification and deliveries, as well as the success of the first squadron of military tiltrotors about to deploy to Iraq.
The Bell/Agusta BA609 civil tiltrotor program is moving forward, according to a Bell spokesman, with two more flight-test ships scheduled to join the two already flying over the next 18 months. However, there are some indications that the program, now into its 10th year, is beginning to falter.
“Why don’t my Bell colleagues take this question?” AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi suggested when asked why Bell would not accept his company’s additional money into the protracted BA609 Tiltrotor program, during a press conference on Wednesday here at the Paris Air Show.
GE Aviation has won a contract from Boeing to provide a range of components for the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey military vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft. The five-year deal covers 167 V-22s and is worth about $15 million, said GE, which will supply primary and secondary lighting controllers, forward cabin control station, hydraulic fluid level monitor and ramp door control panel.
GE Aviation’s Systems division expects to complete testing the interface units for the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey some time in the next few weeks, after which the units will be flight tested on the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft.
The BA 609 Tiltrotor is making its flying debut here at Le Bourget. Bell/Agusta Aerospace has brought the second prototype to Paris after it made its first public appearance late last month at an Italian air show. Potential European customers have recently expressed concern about the aircraft’s cost of ownership. Its U.S.-Italian manufacturer might thus hope to convince them about its unique capabilities by showcasing it here.
Last June Bell/Agusta completed initial testing of its BA609 civil tiltrotor at Bell’s Fort Worth, Texas flight-test center. At the time, project test pilot Roy Hopkins said he was particularly impressed by the tiltrotor’s handling qualities. Over nine flights of the BA609, Hopkins, accompanied by flight test pilot Dwayne Williams, logged 14 hours in helicopter mode.