Leonardo Helicopters is checking off key milestones on its AW609 civil tiltrotor program, and the aircraft remains on pace for entry into service in 2019, the company reported in its latest update.
“Our collaboration with [the International Civil Aviation Organization] and the FAA, coupled with the increasing momentum in flight test and developmental operations, puts the company in the right position to ensure first AW609 deliveries after certification in late 2019 meet customer operational requirements,” said Bill Sunick, AW609 marketing manager for Leonardo (Booth C3225).
Last year, 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.
Another major milestone was achieved late last year when Transport Canada certified the AW609’s 2,000-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67A powerplant. 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. Retrofit of AC1 is nearly complete and that aircraft will start certification “load level” surveys this year.
Fuselage fatigue testing, meanwhile, kicked off late last year at Leonardo’s facility in Poland, the company said, and added supplier component certification testing is proceeding well and according to plan.
AC4 is currently undergoing assembly and plans call for it to join the flight-test program this year. The aircraft will be the first to feature the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion cockpit, and will be focused on avionics testing and certification.
The company continues development and engineering work to integrate the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion touchscreen avionics. 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.
“Given that the AW609 represents the next generation of aircraft transport for private, commercial, government, and parapublic operators, it is critical that regulatory support keeps pace with innovation and advancement in aviation,” said Sunick.