Bell Helicopter chairman and chief executive John Murphey is in the sort of corporate hotseat many top executives yearn for: command of a major corporation at the precise moment that corporation is in, if not the fight of its life, certainly some very tough times indeed.
Bell/Agusta Aerospace engineers working on the BA609 Tiltrotor have stepped up their certification efforts, now working with the FAA and the EASA (via Italian authorities) and planning on more than 100 hours of flight testing this year. That goal represents a major acceleration; the company has logged only 300 hours since 2003. However, the first flight of the third prototype has been delayed again.
The European Commission (EC) has ordered Italy to ensure immediate reimbursement of E170 million ($250 million) worth of “illegal” loans that had been allotted to various aerospace programs, including AgustaWestland for the A109 and A119 and Alenia-made Falcon 2000 business jet subassemblies. In addition, Italy must ask Avio to repay a loan for its contribution to the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308 business jet engine.
Mike Redenbaugh took over the CEO’s office at Bell Helicopter’s Fort Worth, Texas headquarters in May and now faces some formidable challenges–including getting the military V-22 tiltrotor program on track and completing certification of the BA609 civil tiltrotor in cooperation with partner Agusta Aerospace of Italy.
Aero Toy Store brought two custom-finished new helicopters to Heli-Expo to highlight the company’s growing helicopter sales capability. On display at its booth (No. 2859) is a new AgustaWestland AW139 VIP equipped with the Sagem ICDS-10 multifunction display and ACi’s Cocoon noise-reduction wall panel system. The Cocoon system minimizes noise and vibration by attaching cabin furnishings to the airframe using sound/vibration isolator mounts.
Bell/Agusta Aerospace engineers working on the BA609 Tiltrotor have stepped up their certification efforts and now plan more than 100 hours of flight testing this year–a major acceleration over the 300 hours logged since 2003. However, the first flight of the third prototype faces yet another delay. Bell/Agusta now expects certification of the hybrid helicopter/airplane design in three years.
Despite delays that have slowed progress on the Bell/Agusta BA609, AgustaWestland CEO Guiseppe Orsi insisted the program remains on track for certification and first customer deliveries in 2011.
Like the old blues song goes, “It’s been a long time coming. But a change is gonna come.” That change–the possible revolution that is the promise of civil tiltrotor flight– took to the air on March 7 with the first flight of Bell/Agusta Aerospace’s BA609 tiltrotor prototype.
In 1965, Indonesian president Sukarno characterized the tumultuous (he was overthrown) political period to come as “The Year of Living Dangerously,” the title of his annual state-of-the-nation address.
To reduce to its essence a recent interview with HAI president Roy Resavage, one might characterize the 12 months since the last HAI Heli-Expo as “The Year in Which Survival Was Its Own Form of Victory.”
In the face of what market forecasters predict will be nearly another full decade of flat civil helicopter sales, manufacturers have been loath to risk precious capital to develop models whose market reception would likely be less than enthusiastic. The result has been a handful of new designs, some riskier than others. Herein, the details…