10 December 2002
First commercial tiltrotor starts ground tests
Providence, R.I. – Textron Inc. said Tuesday its Bell/Agusta 609 (BA 609), the world's first commercial tiltrotor aircraft, has begun "ground run" testing in preparation for first flight.
Textron Bell's Bell/Agusta 609 tiltrotor aircraft
Bell Helicopter photo
Jointly developed by Textron's Bell Helicopter unit and Agusta, an AgustaWestland company, tests are being conducted at Bell's Flight Research Center in Arlington, Texas.
Bell Helicopter CEO John Murphey said the BA609 would undergo 40 to 50 hours of aircraft ground run testing prior to its first flight. All aircraft systems will be tested and thoroughly checked, he said. No date has been set yet for the first flight.
"Today marks a new benchmark date in aviation history," Murphey said. "With 70 orders from 40 customers in 18 countries, there is no doubt the BA609 will revolutionize air transportation."
AgustaWestland CEO Amedeo Caporaletti said, with its rotors in the vertical position, the tiltrotor is able to take off, land and hover like a traditional helicopter. When the rotors are tilted forward to the horizontal position, the aircraft is able to fly with the high speed and range of a turboprop fixed wing airplane.
Officials said the transition from helicopter mode to airplane mode takes 20 seconds, as does the transition from airplane mode to helicopter mode. This versatile capability enables the BA609 to fly with twice the speed and range of conventional helicopters, the said.
The BA609 is expected to be used in a wide variety of commercial and civil operations ranging from offshore oil exploration to corporate transport, emergency medical service and small air carrier operations. It seats six to nine passengers and is expected to be certified by the FAA in 2007 with first deliveries to begin immediately following, Murphey said.
Bell/Agusta plans to produce a total of four prototype tiltrotor aircraft for flight-testing. Final assembly for production aircraft will take place at Bell's Amarillo, Texas, facility with another assembly line to be established at the Agusta plant in Italy. Headquarters for the Bell/Agusta Aerospace Company is located at Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, Texas.
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