Agusta has invited Bell Helicopter Textron to join its planned ERICA tiltwing study programme. It has also expressed interest in Bell's concepts for larger derivatives of the jointly developed Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor.

"We're interested in participating in further developments of the BA609 and we've invited Bell to participate in ERICA as part of our Bell Agusta Aerospace company partnership," says Guiseppe Orsi, Agusta's general manager.

ERICA is a concept study and the company says it wants to keep its future tiltwing/tiltrotor options open. The Agusta-led European team expects to know within the next three months whether the European Union will provide funding for the study, without which it will not proceed, says Orsi.

An earlier European Commission application was rebuffed when Brussels told Agusta and the rival Eurocopter-led Eurotilt consortium they should find common ground on their proposals. The two are now proposing a joint presentation which makes a case for funding the complementary technologies without necessarily combining the programmes.

ERICA is conceived as a 20-seat aircraft and as such falls outside the Bell/Agusta joint venture agreement, which extends to 19-seat machines. Bell, however, is studying larger developments of the nine-seat BA609, ranging in size from 19 seats up to 32 seats.

The BA619 is a 12,700kg (28,000lb)-class development harnessing two 2,240kW (3,000shp) proprotors and a new 19-seat fuselage. A 27-seat BA627 is also under consideration. Possible engines include the Rolls-Royce AE1107, which powers the Bell Boeing V-22, or tiltrotor versions of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150 or General Electric CT7 turboprops.

Bell is also looking at an alternative quad tiltrotor approach based around uprated versions of the BA609's twin 1,450kW P&WC PT6C-67As. This includes the BA626, a 26-seat machine, and a 32-seat quad tiltrotor.

Source: Flight International