In a surprise move at last month’s Paris Air Show, the much anticipated Bell/Agusta Aerospace AB139 received its type certification from the Italian aeronautical authority, ENAC, which also approved IFR operations.
Russia’s Oboronprom Corporation and AgustaWestland announced the signing of a heads of agreement for the joint final assembly of the AW139 medium twin helicopter in a still-to-be-built factory near Moscow. According to Oboronprom director general Andrey Reus, outlined plans call for a production rate of 24 helicopters per year.
Bell Helicopter (Chalet L3-7) here in a press conference yesterday strongly hinted the company 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,” Mike Blake, executive v-p for customer solutions, said. While one test aircraft resides
Bell Helicopter will likely confirm another one-year delay for the civil BA609 Tiltrotor program during a press conference here today, judging by a new development schedule released by program partner AgustaWestland. This year, the company expects a postponement of certification from “2010/2011,” as announced in June 2007, to “2011/early 2012.”
A Bell Helicopter spokesman denied speculation that the company plans to pull the plug on the Bell/Agusta BA609 civil tiltrotor or sell its entire stake in the program to Italian development partner AgustaWestland. Speculation about Bell’s future in the program escalated earlier this week after Bell CEO Richard Millman told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “We designed the 609 for a new U.S.
The fortunes of the Bell/Agusta BA609 are closely linked to those of the U.S. Marines’ MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor transport, still grounded following a pair of well-publicized fatal accidents and even more sensational charges of records falsification and related wrongdoing by senior Marine program managers.
Despite the fact that the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67A engines are installed on the first BA609 prototype tiltrotor, Bell is letting the development schedule of that aircraft slip, with its previously planned first flight moving from last month to sometime this summer. Assembly of a further pair of prototypes has also slowed dramatically.
While its bigger cousin in the Marines stays grounded, work on the civil tiltrotor is proceeding in the same Bell Helicopter hangars from which the first prototype V-22 Ospreys rolled out some 13 years ago in Arlington, Texas.
As spring flooded north along America’s Atlantic seaboard, news from the tiltrotor front began to improve somewhat. The mandated modification work on the U.S. Marines’ Osprey fleet was proceeding, closing in on a resumption of flight tests expected to happen this month. Critics of the embattled Bell Boeing program seem to have adopted a wait-and-see attitude.
Australia-based Skytraders has been selected to fly between Australia and Antarctica and for internal Antarctic flights, starting late next year, for the Australian government’s Antarctic division.