Citing a backlog of more than ?10 billion ($12.8 billion) and increases in both revenue and orders during the first nine months of 2008 compared to the same period the year before, AgustaWestland executives on Saturday night said they remain “reasonably and realistically optimistic” about the future of their company as well as that of the industry at large.
Italian manufacturer AgustaWestland’s helicopters address what has become a sweet spot in today’s economy, the medium helicopter segment. And according to AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi, the company is faring well during the worldwide economic downturn.
How is the world economy affecting AgustaWestland?
Work continues on the Bell/Agusta Aerospace BA609 civil tiltrotor program, with more than 100 people dedicated by both Bell Helicopter and AgustaWestland to ongoing flight test and certification tasks. FAA certification is now planned for 2012, according to a Bell spokesman, and the two flight test BA609s–one based at Bell facilities in Texas and one at AgustaWestland in Italy–have logged more than 400 hours.
The BA609 tiltrotor program continues to move forward, according to Bell/Agusta Aerospace. Four BA609s will be used in the development and certification flight-test program–two of which are flying now, one with Bell in Texas and the other with AgustaWestland in Italy. The aircraft have flown 365 hours to date. Three more years of flight and certification tests are planned, with 2011 as the current time frame for certification.
Bell/Agusta Aerospace Co. is showing a new six-place VIP interior in its BA609 tiltrotor mockup here in the Orange County Convention Center (Booth No. 5519). Featuring leather seats, two beverage consoles, a flat floor and foldaway tables, the tasteful interior brings “the comfort of a corporate jet to an aircraft that can go places where others cannot,” said Don Barbour, Bell/Agusta executive marketing director.
The BA609 tiltrotor program continues on track, according to Bell/Agusta Aerospace Co. Four BA 609s will be used in the development and certification flight-test program–two of which are flying now, one with Bell in Texas and the other with AgustaWestland in Italy. The aircraft have flown 365 hours to date. When completed, Ships 3 and 4 will join the flight-test program.
The first two prototypes of the Bell/Agusta BA609 civil tiltrotor had covered around 60 percent of the certification flight-test program in more than 350 flight hours and 225 hours of ground running by the middle of last month, in the process reaching the type’s maximum operating altitude of 25,000 feet, its certification speed of 310 ktas and G loadings of +3.1 and -1.0.
Bell Helicopter in July at the Farnborough 2008 airshow strongly hinted it is about to transfer more work to partner AgustaWestland in the protracted BA609 tiltrotor program. “We are looking for the most efficient way to get the aircraft certified and we’ll possibly find some efficiencies in Italy,” said Mike Blake, Bell’s executive v-p for customer solutions.
Unfazed by (or perhaps because of) murmurs from within Bell Helicopter management to the effect that development of the BA609 might be accelerated, Agusta- Westland has released some details of its developmental Erica tilt-wing aircraft (so-called because in the Erica’s case the entire wing is rotated between fixed- and rotary-wing flight).
While praising the efforts of his predecessor, Bell Helicopter’s freshly appointed CEO has been offering his own vision of the future for the beleaguered rotorcraft giant. What emerges is a daring strategy that essentially bets the company on the success of the embattled V-22 Osprey military tiltrotor and, later, the BA609 civil tiltrotor programs.