Second BA609 prototype makes maiden flight

 - December 5, 2006, 9:42 AM

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.

During the first flight, pilot Pietro Venanzi and copilot Herb Moran performed left and right pedal turns, forward and aft flight maneuvers, minor nacelle tilt angle variations and stability testing. The aircraft took off and landed several times. In February, this first flight was pegged for the middle of the year.

Aircraft S/N 60002 and S/N 60003 are already at Cameri. S/N 60004, the fourth and final prototype, is on the assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas. The first one, S/N 60001, is undergoing trials at Bell’s flight-test facilities in Arlington, Texas. It has logged more than 100 flight hours. The prototype has reached a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet and a maximum speed of 304 knots.

Since February, Bell and Agusta have further postponed the expected year of certification for the tiltrotor, from 2009 to 2010. AgustaWestland said the first two years of production (“more than 60 aircraft”) are sold out. Bell has a 60-percent stake in the BA609 program, while AgustaWestland has the remaining 40 percent.