In a major program update on the AW609, Leonardo Helicopters said the civil tiltrotor program remains on track for entry into service in 2019. “The team is fully committed and well integrated with the regulatory authorities to achieve this timeline. We continue to finalize the plans for all of the certification documentation with the FAA,” the company said as part of a detailed program update statement released to AIN on October 18.
This past spring, the third AW609 test aircraft (AC3) successfully completed an artificial icing campaign in Marquette, Michigan, laying the groundwork for future testing in natural icing conditions.
By year-end, Leonardo will begin fuselage fatigue test certification. In Poland, a full-scale fuselage will be loaded to simulate actual conditions during fatigue testing. Additional supplier component certification tests are proceeding as planned, the company reported.
Another major milestone was achieved this month when Transport Canada certified the AW609’s 2,000-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67A powerplant. FAA validation of the engine is expected by the end of 2017.
The PT6C-67A has a new compressor with advanced aerodynamics, and the engine's new turbines are made with more modern materials. Together, the new compressor and turbine allow for increased power and reduced fuel consumption. The engine has also been certified to enable continuous operation in vertical flight.
In accordance with development plans, a production engine was recently retrofitted onto AC3 to complete the integration and ready the aircraft for certification testing. Test and regression flights with the production engines on AC3 will begin imminently and continue through year-end. Retrofit of AC1 is nearly complete and that aircraft will start certification “load level” surveys next year.
Assembly of test AC4 is progressing and Leonardo anticipates rolling it out next year. Following ground runs, it will be fully dedicated to avionics development and certification, leveraging the results of the integrated lab results and testing already in progress.
The company continues development and engineering work to integrate the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion touchscreen avionics, and this is proceeding to be available on board AC4 for first flight. Cockpit integration tests are conducted on a regular basis with the support of the integration lab to finalize man-machine interface and the correct display of all flight information.
Leonardo said it is also closing in on its collaboration with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to finalize the first version of the “Tilt-Rotor Guidance Material.” The first production aircraft is expected to be in service beginning in 2019, and in parallel with reaching this milestone the company said it is progressing in the development of training manuals and technical publications.