The third Leonardo Helicopters AW609 civil tiltrotor, AC3, recently began flight testing from the company's Philadelphia plant and will soon head to Marquette, Michigan, for cold weather testing and icing trials, the company announced today. Meanwhile, AC1 has been returned to Italy for modifications, while AC4 is under assembly in Philadelphia. Manufacture of production aircraft is scheduled to start there in 2018. Leonardo also reaffirmed its intent to gain FAA certification for the AW609 next year.
To date, AC3 has performed several weeks of unrestrained ground testing and, more recently, flight trials that allowed avionics and all systems to be fully tested. During initial flights, the aircraft performed basic hovering and maneuvering and patterns around the airport, concluding with hover landing. Additional flights up to 4,000 feet with short takeoff and landing (STOL) are planned shortly in AC3.
The rotorcraft manufacturer said it has current customer commitments for "nearly" 60 AW609s, including three from the UAE Joint Aviation Command, as well as development agreements in place with Bristow and Era for offshore and EMS variants, respectively. Leonardo has yet to disclose a price for its civil tiltrotor.
Flight testing of the AW609 resumed in August with AC1 after the fatal crash of AC2 in October 2015. Announced performance includes a maximum forward speed of 275 knots, a ceiling of 25,000 feet, a hover out of ground effect of 5,000 feet, hover in ground effect of 10,000 feet and a useful load of 2,500 pounds. Short-takeoff capability will be added to the certification basis to increase the helicopter’s maximum takeoff weight to 18,000 pounds from 16,800 pounds. Standard range is 700 nm, but 1,100 nm with aux fuel.