Agusta officials have revealed they are currently negotiating with Bell to increase the share the Italian manufacturer holds in the BA609 tiltrotor program. Currently at 25 percent for Agusta and 75 percent for Bell, the workshare may eventually become “close to 50/50,” Agusta CEO Amedeo Caporaletti said.
Before suffering a fatal crash April 22, the joint Bell/Agusta AB139 helicopter was enjoying a notably trouble-free development program that was at times well ahead of its original development schedule, and being warmly received by its target markets, both rarities in commercial aviation today and nearly miracles in the helicopter business.
Displaying the sort of brand loyalty most manufacturers only wish for, the New York City Police Department aviation unit has taken delivery of yet another Bell helicopter, a brand-new 412EP. This addition brings the NYPD’s fleet total to six helicopters, all of them Bell products.
The UK government is investigating GKN’s $1.79 billion (£1 billion) sale of its 50-percent stake in helicopter company AgustaWestland on grounds of national security. Government trade and industry minister Helen Smith has issued a European Intervention Notice under the 2002 Enterprise Act.
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.