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Leonardo is focusing on the first delivery of the AW609 tiltrotor in 2020, as the aircraft enters the mass production phase at Leonardo’s Philadelphia facility. The company said airframe components of the tiltrotor will enter the assembly phase in the coming weeks, ahead of the AW609 receiving Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) civil certification.
“I think [the AW609 program] has made a lot of progress,” said Gian Piero Cutillo, Leonardo Helicopters’ managing director, at a press conference during HAI Heli-Expo 2019. “We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are now focusing on delivery next year of the first 609.”
The company also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at Heli-Expo with Nakanihon Air Service, Co., Ltd. of Japan to study the requirements for introducing the AW609 tiltrotor into service in the country.
Leonardo is deploying a global campaign for the world’s first multi-role commercial tiltrotor, and will work with Nakanihon Air Service over the next 12 months to identify opportunities for the 609 in Japan.
Leonardo said it is offering the AW609 for a range of roles such as emergency medical services, search-and-rescue, and transport. “Some of [the AW609 missions] will be offshore-related, but not uniquely related to the oil-and-gas specific operations,” added Roberto Garavaglia, senior vice president of competitive analysis and strategy at Leonardo.
“At Nakanihon Air Service we operate about 80 aircraft, both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, and we are very interested in the new tiltrotor category,” the company said in a press release. “Through this joint working group with Leonardo, we would like to explore the applications of the AW609 to future aeromedical services, disaster emergency response and news coverage as well as new areas of business.”
The 609 tiltrotor has a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) and can fly at an altitude of 25,000 feet. It also features a pressurized cabin for patient comfort during medical treatment in the air.
Leonardo has also started production of the world’s first AW609 tiltrotor Level D full-flight simulator (FFS), which is being developed in collaboration with CAE, Inc. Cutillo added that Leonardo is planning to build a FSS in Philadelphia for the AW169 in early 2020 – which would be the first AW169 FFS in the U.S.
The AW609 and AW169 simulators will be housed at Leonardo’s new 60,000-square-foot Helicopter Training Academy in Philadelphia, which is currently being developed; the new training academy will have maintenance training bays, virtual enhanced training devices, and classrooms in addition to the Level D full-flight simulators.
Cutillo also said the company is continuing development of the Clean Sky 2 NextGen Tiltrotor. “We expect to fly a demonstrator by 2023, [and] in its final configuration we expect to fly it in the 2030-35 period.”
The next-gen tiltrotor is larger than the nine-seat AW609, as it will hold 20 passengers.