Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government is evaluating the Leonardo AW609 tiltrotor to deliver future service to Ogasawara Islands, an archipelago of more than 30 subtropical and tropical islands approximately 540 nm south of Tokyo. More than 130 Leonardo helicopters are currently in service in Japan and the company has an established service and support network operating there.
Meanwhile, the first two production AW609s are currently being assembled in Philadelphia, where customer training will also be conducted at Leonardo’s new training academy. An advanced flight training device and the first AW609 full-flight simulator will be available at the Eastern Pennsylvania location for pilot training later this year.
The AW609 is being marketed across a mission spectrum that includes EMS, SAR, VIP/corporate transport, offshore resource development, and government/public service duties. Designed to carry nine passengers, the 1,000-nm-range tiltrotor will be able to cruise at 275 knots at altitudes up to 25,000 feet.
Leonardo last reported orders from 60 customers for the aircraft, for which a price has not yet been publicly disclosed. In 2016, Leonardo signed an agreement with operator Era Group (now Bristow) to develop an EMS variant of the aircraft. The AW609 first flew in 2003 and its development and certification has been subject to numerous delays, including those triggered by a fatal crash of a test aircraft in Italy in 2015 during high-speed dive testing.