The BA609 Tiltrotor program is continuing slowly toward certification, now planned for 2010. At Heli-Expo, a Bell spokesman confirmed that the company has applied to the FAA for a type certificate, which usually signifies serious intent because it starts the clock on the certification deadline (three years for Part 23, five years for Part 25), and it took orders for two more BA609s at the show.
Bell/Agusta Aerospace Company
The second prototype of the Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor is now flying in airplane mode, after starting its flight test regimen in helicopter mode on November 9 last year. It operates from Cameri, an Italian Air Force airfield near Milan.
Bell Helicopter announced last month it is relocating its commercial business unit’s worldwide sales and marketing offices and the Bell Training Academy to the facility formerly occupied by Galaxy Aerospace/Gulfstream at Fort Worth Alliance Airport, Texas.
AgustaWestland last month announced that its sales in India are growing, with seven deliveries last year (not all new rotorcraft), four planned this year and another 12 over the 2008-2009 period. In addition, Hindustan Construction has ordered a second Bell/Agusta BA609 Tiltrotor. Hong-Kong-based Sharp Ocean is now AgustaWestland’s distributor for India, Sri Lanka and The Maldives.
Bell Helicopter yesterday revealed it has discontinued the 417 development project, announced with much fanfare at last year’s Heli-Expo, where the company took deposits for 136 copies of the aircraft, which was based on the popular 407. Another point of discussion at this year’s event, held in Orlando, Fla., was Bell’s recent shakeup at the top.
Bell/Agusta AB139s seem to be headed far and wide at the moment. Deliveries of the new medium twin to the Namibian government and, most recently, to philanthropist the Aga Khan (see sidebar) are recent milestones, as the companies announce orders from Canada, New Zealand and the U.S. (The U.S. Coast Guard’s Deepwater order for up to 35 aircraft was a particular coup.) At press time, Bell/Agusta reported orders for more than 80 aircraft.
You might call Heli-Expo 2005 a triumph for Bell/Agusta Aerospace and particularly for the AB139. In the period covering European certification in 2003, FAA IFR authorization in December and last month’s show, eight AB139s have been handed over to customers, for use in roles ranging from VIP to air ambulance and a wide range of environments. Twenty-six more were ordered in Anaheim last month.
Following the first Bell/Agusta AB139 delivery to Helilario, production is now ramping up to meet deliveries to international customers later this year. The company said it already has a “sizable” order book for the helicopter, corresponding to two years of production. Preparation of AB139 customer-support and training activities is on target to meet introduction-into-service dates.
Nearly six years after its launch at the 1999 Paris Air Show, Bell/Agusta’s AB139 medium twin-turbine helicopter has gained FAA IFR certification. The helicopter, which achieved Italian IFR certification in 2003, is equipped with a four-screen Honeywell Primus Epic EFIS. Three aircraft have been delivered to date. The order book currently stands at more than 80 aircraft slated for delivery to more than 40 customers, according to Bell/Agusta.
AgustaWestland is acquiring Bell Helicopter’s 25-percent stake in the AB139 twin-turbine helicopter program. “Consolidating the ownership of the AB139 will provide a single face to the customer, leading to increased sales and greater customer satisfaction related to follow-on support services,” said AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppi Orsi.