AW609 Flight Testing Achieves Milestones

 - October 5, 2018, 4:45 PM
Leonardo Helicopters has installed a new production main cabin door designed with an embedded rescue hoist for search-and-rescue operations on the third flight-test AW609 tiltrotor. Certification of the VTOL airplane is expected next year. (Photo: Leonardo Helicopters)

Leonardo’s AW609 civil tiltrotor flight-test program has accumulated more than 1,400 hours and is “progressing well,” according to program manager Bill Sunick. Recent program milestones include successful drop testing of the production landing gear, production engine certification testing on test aircraft three (AC3), continued fuselage and empennage fatigue testing, installation of a new production main cabin door designed with an embedded rescue hoist for search-and-rescue operations, and the continued build of AC4 in Philadelphia. Construction should be completed by year-end. Production engine testing should also be completed in December, Sunick said.

AC4 will fly with the new embedded hoist that will be fitted on AW609s kitted for SAR operations. It will also have the new Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion flight deck. Other progress points Sunick noted include the approval of the ICAO tiltrotor guidance material, completion of 70 percent of the maintenance review board meetings, and continued flight deck integration team meetings. Leonardo has yet to set a public retail price for the AW609, Sunick said.

The company has released a six-place VIP rendering that features six individual executive seats and a small forward refreshment center. Leonardo is aiming for FAA certification in 2019 and customer deliveries in 2020. Earlier this year, the company said it held letters of intent for approximately 50 aircraft. The AW609 features a pair of 2,000-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67A engines, a top speed of 275 knots, a maximum range of 750 nm, and a service ceiling of 25,000 feet.

Leonardo also acknowledged AW609 test pilot Dan Wells, who was named a fellow by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) during an awards ceremony on September 29 at SETP’s annual symposium. Wells is a graduate of the Navy Test Pilot School and flew for the Army for 26 years. He has been with the AW609 program since 2011.