Bell/Agusta’s BA609 looks nothing like the finished article in the VMSIL. In place of a fuselage and wings, the tiltrotor’s systems, interfaced with an aircraft flight-simulation host computer, are spread across three separate areas in the lab.
Pietro Venanzi took the left seat in the BA609 during the tiltrotor’s return to flight status, at Bell’s XworX center near Fort Worth, Texas, on June 3. The 80-minute hop in aircraft one (A/C1), witnessed by AIN, was not the Italian test pilot’s first time at the controls of the tiltrotor. He had taken them on several occasions alongside project test pilot Roy Hopkins, during the first flight-test phase between February and June 2003.
The first Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor made full conversion to airplane mode near Fort Worth, Texas, in late July. On the eve of returning to Italy to take the reins of aircraft two, Agusta test pilot Pietro Venanzi briefed AIN on what the companies learned from this fundamental expansion of the flight envelope.
When we last talked you estimated you were about one-third of the way along a journey to changing Bell’s culture and implementing new tools and techniques. Is the company where you want it to be yet?
Having assumed total responsibility for the AB139, how do you plan to deal with the growing backlog of orders?
At the AgustaWestland breakfast yesterday, company president Giuseppe Orsi emphasized the continued integration of the two companies– Agusta and Westland–and the importance of a single corporate face in the marketplace. Both owned by Finmeccanica, the two were officially merged into a single unit in 2000, but full integration of resources has been slow to develop.
The second Bell Agusta BA609 (S/N 60002) made its first ground run on July 13 at AgustaWestland’s facility in Cameri, Italy. First flight of S/N 60002 is expected in the third quarter. Bell Agusta will manufacture four prototype BA609 tiltrotors for flight-testing in the U.S. and Italy to obtain scheduled certification in 2009.
By some accounts, riding as a passenger in the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey military tiltrotor is memorable not for its comfort level but because of the aircraft’s pronounced vibrations.
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