AgustaWestland has begun flight testing a number of aerodynamic enhancements to its developmental AW609 civil tiltrotor, which it hopes will cut drag by around 10% as well as delivering "a significant weight reduction".
Modifications have been made to the vertical fin on the second flying prototype of the AW609, says AgustaWestland, although it does not provide further details. Other changes include a more aerodynamic design for the engine exhaust nozzles and alterations to the spinner cones on the tiltrotor's propellers, it says.
Flight tests using the prototype began on 25 July from its Cascina Costa facility in northern Italy, the company says.
AW609 programme manager Clive Scott says the package of measures - alongside previously announced improvements to the aircraft's engines and avionics - will give the AW609 "greater performance and mission capabilities".
So far two flight-test examples of the tiltrotor have been produced, one based in Italy and one in Arlington, Texas, and have amassed around 800h. Two further prototypes are undergoing final assembly in Italy, it adds.
Certification of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-powered aircraft is being pursued in the USA initially and is scheduled for early 2017.