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.”
Successfully completing phase one of what will be the world’s first civil certification of a tiltrotor aircraft, veteran convertiplane pilot Roy Hopkins recently found himself in possession of something he hadn’t had much of in the last few months: spare time.
Bell is planning to add the second 429 prototype to its flight-test effort next month. The first example of the new light-twin helicopter has already convinced design engineers that they can stay with a four-blade tail rotor.
Last June Bell/Agusta completed initial testing of its BA609 civil tiltrotor at Bell’s Fort Worth, Texas flight-test center. At the time, project test pilot Roy Hopkins said he was particularly impressed by the tiltrotor’s handling qualities. Over nine flights of the BA609, Hopkins, accompanied by flight test pilot Dwayne Williams, logged 14 hours in helicopter mode.
After a hiatus of more than two years, the Bell/Agusta BA609 civil tiltrotor returned to flight status on June 3, flying for 1.3 hours. The aircraft, S/N001 and the only BA609 to fly to date, last flew on April 14, 2003, after accumulating 14 flight hours from the time of its first flight on March 7 of that year. It also logged some 41 ground test hours.
On November 9, the second Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor prototype made its maiden flight in Italy. The flight took place at an Italian Air Force airfield in Cameri, near Milan. The 52-minute first flight was quickly followed by more test flights. As of November 15, the aircraft had flown in helicopter mode only.
The second prototype of the Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor (S/N 60002) logged its first flight on November 9 at AgustaWestland’s facility in Cameri, Italy. During the flight, which lasted 52 minutes, the nacelle/rotors were tilted 15 degrees forward of vertical thrust. BA609 S/N 60003 is already at Cameri and S/N 60004 is on the assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas.
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