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 third prototype was at Cascina Costa, and prepared for road shipment to AgustaWestland’s factory at Vergiate, less than 20 miles away. The road trip is expected in the next couple of weeks. There it will be put together and prepared for flight, with an expectation of getting airborne in July 2014. A prime task for this airframe will be icing trials.
The fourth prototype joins the team in 2015, and its role will be focused on the avionics and system integration. While this aircraft is already built, it will need modifying in line with various changes which have been developed in the last two years, including the modifications to the tail and nacelle spinners.
Sales work is also continuing in parallel even without a reasonably accurate estimate of FAA certification or the expected follow-on EASA certification. Over 50 customers have signed Purchase Agreements with paid deposits to the AW609 across a number of sectors including VIP/Corporate, Government agencies and Offshore, and these have clearly been given a target price range by AgustaWestland, although they declined to discuss those numbers with us. Operational cost numbers are not far different from the AW139, although that should be put into context of the AW609 cruising at 250 knots, about double the speed of the AW139.
There has also been a sale “with medical equipment on board”, but AgustaWestland said that it was not an “air ambulance customer” in the normal usage of that terminology. HeliHub.com believes this may be for organ transport, where the vertical take off from a hospital and 250 knot cruise speed at 25,000 ft offers new opportunities, and the transplant sector of the healthcare industry will be able to look much further afield for a potential matching donor, and thus save more lives.
In the offshore market, the maximum of nine passengers could be seen by some as a serious limitation, but as the opportunities for the commercial exploitation of oil fields moves further offshore, the AW609 speed and cruise altitude could become the catalyst for new exploration rather than a limiting factor. A major existing offshore helicopter operator is among the current signed-up customers for the AW609.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com
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