The third AW609 civil tiltrotor, AC3, completed its first restrained ground run yesterday at the Leonardo-Finmeccanica facilities in Cascina Costa, Italy, with all engines and systems operating. The aircraft will join the FAA flight-test program at the company's Philadelphia plant this summer.
Testing plans for AC3 include icing trials scheduled for this coming winter. The ground run of the third prototype followed the resumption of test activities with the first prototype, AC1, on April 15.
The flight-test program had been on hold following the fatal crash of AC2 on October 30 in Italy, outside Santhia in Vercelli province. That accident killed company test pilots Pietro Venanzi and Herb Moran. While the cause of the crash is still officially undisclosed, Leonardo officials indicated in February that they were confident of its cause and that it would have minimal effect on the flight-test and aircraft-certification program. At that time they said they planned to finish the test program with three aircraft.
The fourth prototype, AC4, is undergoing assembly in Philadelphia and destined to enter the test fleet next year. The OEM expects to earn certification of the AW609 in 2018 and will start deliveries immediately thereafter.