In the midst of three new helicopter programs, Bell announced major changes to its executive leadership team in late August.
AgustaWestland is flight-testing several aerodynamic improvements that promise to boost the performance of its AW609 tiltrotor. In fact, these modifications reduce the tiltrotor’s drag by about 10 percent and deliver a “significant” weight reduction, resulting in the performance increases. The company is also upgrading the AW609’s turboprop engines, avionics and flight-control system.
While Bell Helicopter may be banking on its tiltrotor technology to recapture market dominance in U.S. Army aviation, the civil market will continue to rely on conventional helicopter design for some years to come, CEO John Garrison told AIN.
The tiltrotor test rig (TTR) development team at NASA Ames Research Center was honored today with a 2013 NASA Group Achievement Award. Team members include personnel from NASA Ames, Bell Helicopter and Triumph Aerospace Systems. The TTR is a joint project among NASA, the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force to develop a new large-scale system that can test prop-rotors up to 26 feet in diameter at speeds up to 300 knots, allowing for advanced research on tiltrotors and other rotorcraft concepts.
Contract negotiations between the U.S. Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate and AVX Helicopter, Bell Helicopter and the Sikorsky/Boeing team–the potential Phase I vendors for the joint multi-role technology demonstrator (JMR-TD)–are nearing completion. Announcement of the awards for a new U.S. Army medium helicopter are planned for September, according to an Army spokesman.
AgustaWestland has confirmed reports that certification of the AW609 civil tiltrotor has been pushed out to 2017, a one-year delay. A company spokesman told AIN that the schedule change is the result of numerous upgrades being made to the design in terms of aerodynamics and systems, including new engines, avionics and fly-by-wire flight controls.
At a briefing here Monday, the Pentagon’s V-22 Osprey program manager presented a long list of countries that had shown some interest in acquiring the Bell-Boeing tiltrotor. Marine Corps Col. Greg Masiello cautioned that only Israel had firmed up a contract and that his office’s contact with some of the others was still in the early stages. Nevertheless, the list is interesting and worth repeating: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, U.A.E. and the UK.
The U.S. Marine Corps demonstrated the capability of the V-22 Osprey to operate to allied nation platforms by landing the tiltrotor on the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga and dock landing ship JS Shimokita on June 14. MV-22 Ospreys performed takeoffs and landings on the ships during Dawn Blitz 2013, a multinational amphibious exercise off the coast of California. Japan and France are among nations that have expressed interest in acquiring the tiltrotor, including “more than three” nations that are holding serious discussions, U.S.
The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) awarded the Bell Boeing team a five-year contract on June 12 to supply 99 V-22 Osprey tiltrotors. The second multiyear procurement (MYPII) contract, with an earlier $1.4 billion contract award in December, has a total value of $6.5 billion. It specifies 92 MV-22s for the Marine Corps and seven CV-22s for the Air Force for delivery through September 2019.
Work is scheduled to begin this summer on a $13 million Chicago vertiport, more than 20 years after it was first proposed. The near west side, 10-acre site at 14th & Wood is owned by the Illinois Medical District Commission (IMD) and will be financed privately and developed by Nighthawk Services.
Nighthawk president Mike Conklin told AIN that he expects final approvals within weeks and groundbreaking in “late July or early August.” Construction will take approximately 12 months.