Bell Defends Civil Tiltrotor Government Funding
A Bell Helicopter spokesman denies that the company did anything improper in accepting approximately $300 million in U.S. Defense Department independent research and development (IRAD) funds to develop the Model 609 civil tiltrotor program. Bell announced in June that it is in the process of selling the 609 outright to co-development partner AgustaWestland. Bell’s Bill Schroeder told AIN that IRAD 609 spending was “fully compliant” with Pentagon guidelines. IRAD funds are used to decrease the “learning curve” related to developing new spin-off military and civil technologies, Schroeder said. Bell and Boeing build the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor for the Marines and the Air Force. Although AgustaWestland will own the 609, Bell will continue to provide engineering and program support and manufacture key components for the aircraft, which is now labeled the AW609.