AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, announced today that it has completed the first customer demonstration flight of the AW609 to Chevron on February 25th The round trip flight began in Angels Stadium in Anaheim and continued off the coast of Southern California.
Flying Second-in-Command was Chevron pilot Patrick Nevin, who currently flies AW139s in support of offshore oil and gas operations.
The demonstration flight began with a high performance vertical take-off before converting into airplane mode. During the flight, the aircraft flew at speeds up to 220 kts demonstrating its high speed cruise capability. The maximum cruise speed of the AW609 is 275 kts.
Upon a steep approach landing, visibility was in fact improved due to the rear-facing nacelles and the position of the aircraft at 10 degrees nose low. The flight lasted approximately 25 minutes and allowed Niven a full flight experience in both airplane and helicopter modes.
“The avionics and controls of the AW609 resemble that of a traditional helicopter and therefore are familiar and easily mastered by helicopter pilots,” Niven said. “As a pilot supporting offshore oil and gas operations, it is clear to me that the AW609 is uniquely positioned to achieve both the necessary speed and distance to reach deepwater oil rigs.”
“Today’s first customer demonstration flight of the AW609 is evidence of AgustaWestland’s intense commitment and progress towards FAA certification,” said Daniele Romiti, CEO. “We are excited to have captivated the interest of offshore oil and gas pilots and maintain that the AW609, when certified, will serve untapped missions and operations around the world.”
Rockwell Collins will provide a fully integrated cockpit for the AW609 TiltRotor based on its Pro Line Fusion system, allowing AgustaWestland to adopt the very latest in commercial aircraft cockpit technologies, including 14 inch (35.5 cm) touch screen displays, integrated flight management systems with satellite based navigation, synthetic and enhanced vision systems and Head-Up-Display interfaces; all of which will be integrated with the aircraft’s own avionics management systems. This cockpit suite will provide the crew with increased situational awareness and will reduce pilot workload to permit single pilot IFR operations of the AW609 TiltRotor.
The first two test aircraft 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 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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