AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, is pleased to announce that it completed AW609 TiltRotor flight envelope expansion trials in December 2013, allowing the certification testing phase to commence as it makes progress towards Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) certification in 2017.
This was achieved with the first two test aircraft which have now together flown almost 1,000 hours, with over a third having been flown in the last two years since the FAA type certification program was transferred to AgustaWestland Tilt-Rotor Company. The test activities were completed with extensive collaboration between the program’s main site in Arlington, Texas and support from the AgustaWestland Cascina Costa facility in Italy. With further investment and commitment by AgustaWestland the flying rate will increase again in 2014.
The envelope expansion phase tested every aspect of the aircraft’s capabilities and has validated the flight envelope including the 25,000 feet service ceiling with a pressurised cabin and a maximum cruise speed of 275 knots, both of which were performed at the aircrafts maximum weight. The extensive flight testing also confirmed the benefit of a number of aerodynamic and performance improvement modifications developed by AgustaWestland since program acquisition, that deliver a 10% drag reduction, as well as the STOL capabilities of the AW609, the latter enabling an increased take-off weight.
Other trials completed with the AW609 TiltRotor in 2013 included slope landings, run-on landings, aeroelastic stability testing and high altitude stability testing.
The company continues to aggressively test new improved systems for the aircraft including new air data systems and inertial reference platform as well as working with potential suppliers for items such as improved air conditioning and new enlarged cabin door and many more changes, all aimed at enhancing the handling qualities, performance, comfort, versatility and affordability of the final product.
AgustaWestland continues to progress with the necessary changes to the aircraft configuration and supply base to ensure the final product has both a competitive acquisition price as well as operating costs ensuring a true value proposition is available to customers adopting the unique capability enhancement associated with the tiltrotor class of aircraft.
The program now enters a new phase of dedicated certification activity, building upon the testing conducted to date to demonstrate compliance to the type certification basis, the latest update of which was finalised with the FAA in late 2013 to incorporate the latest industry standard safety requirements. AgustaWestland is also working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to ensure that the regulatory framework is in place before the AW609 TiltRotor starts operating in the commercial market place in 2017.
The third prototype, now being assembled at AgustaWestland’s Vergiate facility, will join the flight test program in 2014 in support of this certification flight testing. A fourth prototype will join the certification program at a later date to allow the new avionics suite to be flight tested, and enable type certification to be achieved as planned in 2017.
The concurrent industrialisation phase of the AW609 is also taking shape across the AgustaWestland network and associated supply chain, with new equipment and tooling being acquired to guarantee existing orders can start to be fulfilled immediately after FAA type certification.
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