AgustaWestland acquired the portion of the 609 program it did not already own from Bell Helicopter in 2011, effectively dissolving the joint venture known as the Bell Agusta Aircraft Co. The 609 program is headquartered at a new AgustaWestland facility in Arlington, Texas, across the field from its previous home at Bell’s XworX. The aircraft are to be certified initially by the FAA in the U.S. under Parts 25 and 29 and a new category called powered lift.
Two prototype aircraft–one based in Arlington and the other at Cascina Costa, Italy–have accumulated 750 test hours since 2003 and flown 90 percent of the flight envelope, with more than 10 percent of the total flight test hours flown in the last year.
Another two test aircraft are under construction in Italy and will join the test program this year and next. The third test aircraft is expected to conduct extensive icing tests in the U.S. The fourth aircraft will be fitted with a full production cockpit, including Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion touchscreen avionics, AgustaWestland software used to command the aircraft’s fly-by-wire control system, upgraded Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67A engines and a BAE Systems flight control computer. A flight simulator for the 609 will be installed at Arlington later this year. AgustaWestland expects certification in 2016 and the aircraft initially will be certified dual pilot.
The base aircraft is expected to have a maximum forward speed of 275 knots, a ceiling of 25,000 feet, a hover out of ground effect of 5,000 feet, hover in ground effect of 10,000 feet and a useful load of 2,500 pounds. Four interior configurations include a standard two-pilot, nine-passenger layout; a six- to seven-passenger VIP/executive cabin; a two-litter medevac interior; a search-and-rescue design that includes hoist, basket, litter and four single seats; and a patrol/surveillance variant.