In May, the second prototype of the Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor flew for the first time in public. The aircraft participated in the flying display at the Giornata Azzurra 2007 airshow in Pratica di Mare, near Rome, on May 27. The first prototype had in the past been displayed in a flight to the media in Fort Worth, Texas. The BA609 also performed at the Paris Air Show last month.
“Why don’t my Bell colleagues take this question?” AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi suggested when asked why Bell would not accept his company’s additional money into the protracted BA609 Tiltrotor program, during a press conference on Wednesday here at the Paris Air Show.
GE Aviation has won a contract from Boeing to provide a range of components for the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey military vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft. The five-year deal covers 167 V-22s and is worth about $15 million, said GE, which will supply primary and secondary lighting controllers, forward cabin control station, hydraulic fluid level monitor and ramp door control panel.
The BA 609 Tiltrotor is making its flying debut here at Le Bourget. Bell/Agusta Aerospace has brought the second prototype to Paris after it made its first public appearance late last month at an Italian air show. Potential European customers have recently expressed concern about the aircraft’s cost of ownership. Its U.S.-Italian manufacturer might thus hope to convince them about its unique capabilities by showcasing it here.
Getting in some early practice is this Eurocopter EC 665 Tigre, one of 24 rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft that will be flying in the daily display here. Among other rotary-wing aircraft are the Bell/Agusta BA 609 tiltrotor and NH Industries NH90T.
Early in the second quarter, Bell/Agusta Aerospace reported that the BA609 civil tiltrotor program had logged 137 flights and 159 flight hours on ship 001, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, and 14 flights and 14 flight hours on ship 002 in Cameri, Italy. The flight envelope reached 310 ktas, 25,000 feet and 35 knots in rearward and sideward flight. The longest single flight was 1.7 hours.
Last Friday morning the Bell/Agusta BA609 civil tiltrotor flew over Central Texas with its outboard nacelles rotating forward to full airplane mode for the first time. BA609 project pilot Roy Hopkins and Bell pilot Jim Lindsey said the powered-lift aircraft reached 190 knots in this configuration.
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.
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.
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.