First flight for production AW609 tiltrotor
October 20, 2022 By Jon Robinson
Leonardo reached a significant milestone in its multirole tiltrotor program with the first flight of its first AW609 production aircraft on October 13 in Philadelphia. Designated as AC5, the aircraft’s first flight focused on general handling and systems testing.
Leonardo explains the AW609 will introduced unprecedented capabilities under a dedicated “powered lift category” civil certification now under development. The AW609 excels at providing fast point-to-point transportation at long ranges, continues Leonardo, whether connecting city centres or providing timely access to remote locations. It can transport up to nine passengers in the comfort of a pressurised cabin.
This first production aircraft, AC5, joins a prototype based in the U.S. and two more located in Italy, all currently involved in the last stages of testing activities ahead of (Federal Aviation Administration) FAA certification. To date, the Leonardo AW609 program has logged nearly 1,900 flight hours in the U.S. and Italy.
AC5 will be retained by Leonardo for customer demonstrations, mission capability evaluation and expansion, and supporting the manufacturer and the operators in the transition from the developmental to the operational phase once on the market. Currently, three customers’ production AW609 aircraft are on the program’s dedicated final assembly line at various stages of construction in Philadelphia.
“This amazing achievement adds to several milestones for the AW609 program over the last year, through its technical progress and during its public appearances,” said Gian Piero Cutillo, MD Leonardo Helicopters. “Together this testifies the level of maturity this ground-breaking program has reached and our credentials to pioneer in the emerging fast rotorcraft domain.”
Earlier this year the AW609 launch customer in the United States, Bristow Group, participated in a demonstration flight in Philadelphia marking an important milestone as Leonardo and Bristow collaborate to introduce the AW609 aircraft into service. Also, in March 2022 the AW609 user base was expanded with the addition of an undisclosed long-established European operator of Leonardo’s helicopters who will aim to introduce four tiltrotors to carry out a range of passenger transport missions.
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