Production of the airframe sections of the first production AW609 civil tiltrotor is under way, with assembly to follow “in the next few weeks” at Leonardo Helicopters' plant in Philadelphia, the company told AIN. This will be followed shortly by a second production aircraft, it added.
Leonardo is also building a new training academy in Philadelphia that will support the AW609 with a full-flight simulator and maintenance trainer. That academy is expected to come online early next year.
The company is expected to release more details on the status of the aircraft’s order book, pricing, and available options next week at Heli-Expo in Atlanta. But Leonardo said ahead of the show that the AW609 flight-test program has amassed more than 1,400 hours. Two test aircraft are currently flying—AC1 is in Italy and being used primarily for load level survey certification flights, while AC3 is in Philadelphia and focused on engine performance certification flights. AC2 was lost in a 2015 fatal crash during high-speed dive testing in Italy, the result of problems related to the control laws of the aircraft’s fly-by-wire system.
Meanwhile, AC4 is being assembled in Philadelphia and will fly later this year. It will be equipped with the standard Rockwell Collins Fusion cockpit and used for in-flight avionics testing.