Production-conforming AW609 Expected To Fly Soon

 - June 14, 2021, 10:04 PM
Leonardo continues to rack up flight test hours in its AW609 prototypes, with P3 seen here at the company's facility in Philadelphia. P5, the first production-conforming model, is currently under assembly at this facility and is planned to fly later this year. (Photo: Ian Whelan/AIN)

The first production model in Leonardo’s AW609 tiltrotor program is nearing final completion at the airframer’s U.S. assembly facility in Philadelphia, and it is expected to make its first flight later this summer. During a visit to the site last week by AIN, P5, the first production-conforming aircraft, was seen with its wing mated to the fuselage, while the sixth airframe—which is slated to be the first delivery aircraft, destined for launch customer Bristow—sat behind it awaiting wing attachment.

While the construction of the two aircraft will be completed in one end of the assembly line for the AW119 family of helicopters, including the new TH-73 variant that will serve as the U.S. Navy’s new advanced rotorcraft trainer, future production of the AW609 will move to a nearby, recently acquired hangar previously used for corporate aircraft storage that will better accommodate the fixed-wing AW609.

Meanwhile, the company expects its AW609 simulators to receive FAA approval later this year. The full-flight tiltrotor simulator at Leonardo’s recently opened U.S. training academy in Philadelphia will be a roll-on, roll-off system where the AW609 flight deck a module that can be swapped into the device in a few hours. It will also have an AW609 ground trainer that contains all the functionality of the simulator except for motion.

According to Bill Sunick, the airframer’s head of tiltrotor marketing, Leonardo has not yet finalized a price tag for the 609, telling AIN that he expects it will be somewhere between $20 million and $30 million per copy. While Sunich declined to discuss order numbers, he noted “we have tremendous interest across all the mission sets—VIP and corporate, search and rescue, EMS, [and] offshore energy exploration around the world.”