World's First Civil Tiltrotor Achieves Milestone
A new chapter in aviation history opened Friday
with the maiden flight of the world's first civil tiltrotor, the
Bell/Agusta Aerospace BA609. The nine-passenger aircraft, jointly
developed by Bell Helicopter, a Textron company and by Agusta, an
AgustaWestland company, hovered at an altitude of 50 feet,
performed left and right pedal turns, both forward and aft flight
maneuvers, four take-offs and landings, nacelle position changes
and stability testing for .6 flight hours (36 minutes) before
setting down. The first flight follows seven weeks of ground runs
and taxi testing for the BA609 conducted at Bell's Flight Research
Center, Arlington, Texas.
"The first flight was flawless, the 609 performed exactly as we
knew it would," explained Bell/Agusta Senior Flight Test Pilot Roy
Hopkins who is the world's high time tiltrotor pilot with over
1,000 flight hours in the V-22 Osprey and XV-15 tiltrotor aircraft.
Bell test pilot Dwayne Williams flew as co-pilot on today's first
flight of the BA609.
"Today's first flight of the BA609 is truly an historic occasion
for it marks the first flight of an aircraft that will be available
to the public that can not only fly with the high speed and range
of an airplane but can take-off, hover and land with the
versatility of a helicopter," declared Bell Helicopter's Chairman
and CEO John Murphey, adding, "Until today, commercial helicopters
were limited to a top speed of about 150 knots. The BA609 smashes
through that barrier with a top speed approaching 300 knots. This
achievement is as remarkable as when the Bell X-1 first broke the
sound barrier over 50 years ago."
"With nearly 70 advance orders from customers around the world,
there is no doubt the BA609 will revolutionize air transportation."
added AgustaWestland's CEO Amedeo Caporaletti.
With its rotors in the vertical position, the tiltrotor is able
to take-off, land and hover like a traditional helicopter. When the
rotors are tilted forward to the horizontal position, the aircraft
is able to fly similar to a turboprop fixed-wing airplane. The
transition from helicopter mode to airplane mode takes 20 seconds,
as does the transition from airplane mode to helicopter mode.
The BA609, a six to nine passenger aircraft, is expected to be
certified by the FAA in 2007 with first deliveries to begin
immediately following. Bell/Agusta will produce a total of four
prototype tiltrotor aircraft for flight-testing. Final assembly for
production aircraft will take place at Bell's Amarillo, Texas,
facility with another assembly line to be established at the Agusta
plant in Italy. Fuji Heavy Industries of Japan has the contract to
build all of the production fuselages for the BA609. All parts and
components for both lines will come from the exact same source
yielding aircraft that will be identical whether assembled in Italy
Headquarters for the Bell/Agusta Aerospace Company
is located at Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, Texas. BA 609
customer training will be conducted at this location, which will
also serve as a delivery center. The BA609 will cruise at 275 knots
with a maximum unrefueled range of 750 nautical miles, 1,000
nautical miles with auxiliary fuel tanks. The aircraft in standard
configuration is fully pressurized and de-iced.
Bell Helicopter, a Textron company, is a $1.6 billion, leading
producer of commercial and military helicopters, and the pioneer of
the revolutionary tiltrotor aircraft. Bell Helicopter is a division
of Textron Inc. AgustaWestland is a Finmeccanica and GKN Company,
with primary operations in Cascina Costa, Italy, and Yeovil, United