At Long Last Lift
Taking its place on Bell Helicopter’s Arlington, Texas, tiltrotor test stands for the first time last month, the long-awaited first of a planned four Bell/ Agusta 609 convertiplane prototypes began its engine runups in December. First flight is loosely scheduled for the first quarter of this year. The six- to 10-passenger aircraft will undergo a planned 40 to 50 hr of static testing before flight. The go/no go production decision will depend on
the performance of the BA609’s military cousin, the MV-22 Osprey, which Bell has sworn must enter military service before production of the civil tiltrotor can begin. Present plans call for temporary suspension of BA609 development not long after first flight so that Bell can devote its full energies to the Osprey program.