AgustaWestland appointed former Bell CEO John Murphey to run Agusta-WestlandBell (AWB), the joint-venture company formed to manage the US-101 helicopter program. The US-101 and Sikorsky S-92 are the two finalists in the competition to replace the current fleet of Marine One helicopters that carry the President.
The FAA has granted type certification to two new variants of GE’s CT7-8 turboshaft. The newly certified A and E models, more powerful and more durable than earlier versions, are intended for the Sikorsky S-92, Agusta Westland EH-101/US-101 and NH Industries NH-90 helicopters. Improved versions of the UH-60 Black Hawk, for U.S. Army Special Operations forces, are also candidates for the new unit.
The FAA issued a request for comment on proposed airworthiness standards for certification of the Bell/Agusta BA609–“a multi-turbine-engine powered-lift category, tiltrotor class aircraft”–under FAR 21.17(b), which specifies applicable regulations for special classes of aircraft for which airworthiness standards do not yet exist.
Bowing to some inevitable delays after September 11, Bell/Agusta Aerospace reports assembly of the first two BA609 tiltrotors is nearing completion, with engine runups slated to begin this month. First flight is still scheduled to take place at Bell’s Arlington, Texas flight research center before the end of the year, although industry observers have expressed skepticism that this deadline can be met.
Bell Helicopter last month officially opened its worldwide sales, support and training headquarters at Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, Texas. The facility, originally built in 1999 for Galaxy Aerospace, will also serve as the delivery center and training school for the Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor.
Italy’s Finmeccanica, which owns 50 percent of AgustaWestland, reportedly plans to become sole owner of the Anglo-Italian helicopter company by buying London-based GKN’s 50-percent share. The statement came at GKN’s annual meeting, where stakeholders blamed AgustaWestland for causing interim profits to fall “somewhat below” those achieved a year before.
Italian-based manufacturer AgustaWestland early last month expressed interest in buying all or part of its Polish-based counterpart, PZL-Swidnik, should Polish authorities confirm their intention to privatize the company. The two companies have been cooperating for 11 years. PZL-Swidnik now produces the fuselages of five AgustaWestland models–the AW109 Power and Grand, AW109 LUH, AW119 Ke and AW139.
Bell and Agusta continue their development of the BA609 civil tiltrotor, a joint effort that has been ongoing for more than a decade. However, the future of the program may hinge on the joint venture’s ability to control program costs, speed certification and deliveries, as well as the success of the first squadron of military tiltrotors about to deploy to Iraq.
The AgustaWestland/Bell/Lockheed Martin VH-71 made its first flight July 3 in Yeovil, UK. The 40-minute flight reached speeds of 135 knots and was reportedly uneventful, but there are likely challenges ahead for the program. The U.S. Navy is developing the VH-71 as a replacement for the 30-year-old Sikorsky VH-3Ds and somewhat newer N-60 “Whitehawks” that transport the President and other high-ranking government officials.
AgustaWestland has delivered two helicopters–one AW109 Power light twin and one AW139 medium twin–to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. These two aircraft are part of a June 2006 order, which includes two CA109 Powers to be produced by AgustaWestland’s local joint venture with AVIC II. The CA109s are said to be in the final assembly phase at Jiangxi Change Agusta Helicopter facilities.