AW609 Tiltrotor Making Strides Toward Certification

AgustaWestland pilots Paul Edwards, left, and Dan Wells at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. Kenneth I. Swartz Photo

AgustaWestland test pilots Dan Wells and Paul Edwards gave an update on the progress of the AW609’s flight test program Thursday at Heli-Expo 2015 in Orlando, Fla. 
To date, the program has expanded the flight envelope to 18,000-pound (8,165-kilogram) maximum weight, 293 knots equivalent airspeed, and 30,000 feet.
The company has two flying prototypes: one based in Arlington, Texas, and one based in Italy. Two more prototypes will join the program. The certification basis, which has been finalized with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, is an amalgamation of Federal Aviation Regulation Parts 25 and 29, with additional stipulations specific to its tiltrotor configuration.  
Flight tests so far have included stalls and aeroservoelastic structural tests. Wells and Edwards detailed the successful outcome of recent autorotation tests, wherein the AW609 simulated a dual engine failure while cruising in airplane mode, and performed an emergency reconversion maneuver to autorotate in helicopter mode. The pair said one-engine inoperative performance was equivalent to helicopter Category A performance.  

The AW609 incorporates a fly-by-wire flight control system that is intended to simplify operation. It features programmed nacelle tilt presets that make conversion to airplane mode push button simple, according to the test pilots. Flight envelope protection and variable control feel further aid safety and handling.  
The AW609 is foreseen to fill a niche for a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft with a cruising speed beyond the reach of conventional helicopters. It will feature nine seats, pressurization for flights up to 25,000 feet, and certification for flight into known icing.

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