Leonardo’s AW609 TiltRotor is due to begin icing trials as part of its certification process. Recently the third AW609 prototype performed unrestrained ground tests and a series of flight trials during which systems and avionics were tested. These trials were undertaken at Leonardo’s Philadelphia facility, while icing trials are to take place at Marquette, Michigan. Prototype no. 3 is planned to expand its envelope with flights to 4,000ft and short take-off/landing operations.
As the Bell-Agusta BA609, the TiltRotor first flew on 6 March 2003.
In late 2011 the programme was taken over completely by Agusta- Westland (now Leonardo), but suffered a tragic setback in October 2015 with the loss of the second proto type and its two crew. Shortly afterwards the UAE’s Joint Aviation Command announced that it intended to purchase three AW609s, with an option for three more. They are intended to serve in a search and rescue role (SAR), the type’s high transit speed being cited as a key attribute for timely SAR operations.
With the third prototype now flying, the FAA certification process can proceed with an aim of gaining approval in 2018. Leonardo has a fourth prototype at its Philadelphia assembly plant, which is scheduled to begin production in 2018. The UAE’s intentions are to receive its aircraft in 2019.