The crash of one of the flying prototypes of the Bell/Agusta AB139 twin-turbine helicopter in Italy late last month killed a flight-test engineer, when he and the pilot attempted to exit the stricken rotorcraft via parachute, according to unofficial accounts. At press time it wasn’t known if the crash of the 13,288-lb mtow rotorcraft would delay the expected year-end certification of the AB139.
Bell/Agusta Aerospace Company
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.
Bell Helicopter Textron last month announced plans to lay off 270 workers at its Fort Worth-area plants. The job cuts will affect both union-represented hourly workers and salaried employees. A spokesman for the rotorcraft builder said further cutbacks were possible as the company reevaluated its position in the slumping world helicopter market and as the effects of investigations and slowdowns in the U.S.
With the Italian government still investigating the cause of the April 22 crash of a prototype Bell/Agusta AB139 helicopter near Monteleone, Rimini, in northern Italy, work toward certification is progressing. Unofficial accounts of the accident investigation point to human factors instead of mechanical failure during a high altitude, low airspeed flight.
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.
In separate ceremonies at last month’s NBAA Convention, Bell/Agusta announced the sale of a corporate AB139 to American International Group and Eurocopter revealed that the EC 120 on display was bought. The buyer of the EC 120 wasn’t disclosed, but the seller, insurance broker Lance Toland, immediately ordered a new EC 120, this one with air conditioning.
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.