Several ground and flight tests have already been performed in Philadelphia by the third AW609 prototype
The Leonardo helicopters AW609 tilt rotor program appears to be back on track and moving forward towards certification that the company is projecting will be achieved in 2018 barring any unexpected delays. The Tilt Rotor program is expected to start icing trials soon following recent ground and flight testing activities Leonardo said in a press release celebrating the recent advancements in the testing program. These advances have been made in support of FAA certification, which remains on track for 2018.
The third prototype, based at Leonardo’s facility in Philadelphia, performed several weeks of unrestrained ground testing and, more recently, flight trials that allowed the Tilt Rotor’s avionics and all other systems to be fully tested. During initial flights, the aircraft performed basic hovering and maneuvering and patterns around the airport, concluding with hover landing. Additional flights up to altitudes of 4000 feet. Short takeoff and landing (STOL) testing is also planned to be carried out soon.
The third prototype of the AW609 returned to Leonardo’s U.S headquarters in Philadelphia from Texas in late 2016 where it continued testing. The aircraft will undergo icing trials in Marquette, Michigan, through the winter where it will participate in tests to ensure the AW609 can fly in known icing conditions and reach operational standards not currently available in any other commercial aircraft.
The fourth AW609 prototype is now located within the main production area of the Philadelphia facility’s assembly line to ensure a smooth transition to the first production build aircraft, also planned for 2018.
The AW609 has suffered several setbacks during its development period that began as the Agusta Bell AB609 over ten years ago. Bell later leaving the program as then AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) took over the sole development of the worlds first civilian model tilt rotor aircraft. One of the biggest setbacks to the program during development was during a test flight on October 20th, 2015, when one of the prototype aircraft broke up in mid flight in Italy. The crash killing test pilots Herb Moran and Pietro Venanzi. The program was temporarily put on hold until the cause of the in flight breakup could be identified. Testing resuming in mid 2016.
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