Last week, HeliHub.com had access to the key executives of the AW609 program. This is one of three updates we are presenting this week to our readers.
The AW609 started off life as the BA609, a 50:50 joint venture with Bell Helicopter. After a period of owning a majority share, AgustaWestland took over the whole project in November 2011 (see story), and apart from a few short press releases, the aviation industry has been short of key information on what has been going on. The intervening period has been one of building new foundations for AgustaWestland, who had to set up a full team for the AW609 built around the half team they had before.
Certification work and flights have continued, as have demonstration flights to potential customers. Some changes have been made to the design, the two noticeable external changes being the narrowing the tail along its trailing edge (see photo below) and the addition of “eyebrows” on the nacelle spinners to improve the airflow there. Other improvements have included reshaping the exhaust configuration, and the removal of the rudder. The development program to date has focused on two prototype machines, one operating from Arlington in Texas USA, and the other at Cascina Costa in Italy. Together they have accumulated an impressive 870 hours, with 300 of those in the last 24 months. AgustaWestland have a program of 40 hours flying between now and the end of 2013 at which point they will freeze the flight envelope. Current work includes high-altitude trials with the US prototype, while the Italian aircraft is working on high descent rate profiles and autorotation.
In terms of key numbers, the AW609 will fly up to 25,000ft with pressurized cabin, max speed of 275 knots and cruising at 250, a range of 600 nautical miles going up to 700 in some situations and a maximum take-off weight of 16,800 pounds for vertical take-off, or 18,000 pounds for a 400-500m runway STOL take-off.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com
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