A senior AgustaWestland executive told AIN late last week that the company was giving serious consideration to building production models of the AW609 civil tiltrotor in the U.S., possibly in Texas. Robert LaBelle, managing director of the AgustaWestland Tilt-Rotor Co., said the aircraft initially would be built partially in Italy and the U.S., but that the ultimate decision on where to conduct final assembly would be “driven by the customer base” and that “35 percent of that is predicted to be in the United States.”
AgustaWestland acquired the portion of the 609 program that it did not already own from Bell Helicopter in 2011 after that joint venture dissolved. The 609 program is currently headquartered at a new AgustaWestland facility in Arlington, Texas, and the aircraft will be initially certified by the FAA under Parts 25, 29 and a new category.
Approximately 240 employees are working on the program–split evenly between workers at the Arlington facility and AgustaWestland’s plant in Cascina Costa, Italy. Two prototype aircraft have accumulated 750 test hours since 2003 and another two are under construction. AgustaWestland expects AW609 certification in 2016.