AgustaWestland has completed its acquisition from Bell of the 609 tiltrotor programme and is gearing up to bring the much delayed civilian aircraft - now dubbed the AW609 - to market in early 2016.
"All legal and regulatory approvals have now been successfully completed," said the Finmeccanica-owned company.
Along with the two flying AW609 prototypes, the deal includes all assets and drawings from Bell, but no intellectual property related to the military's Bell-Boeing V22 tiltrotor, on which the 609 is based.
"The development of the AW609 tiltrotor programme is now moving forward under full AgustaWestland control, with civil certification expected in late 2015-early 2016 and deliveries following immediately afterwards," said AgustaWestland.
The Bell/Agusta Aerospace Company brand will be renamed but remain a US company as it is the new type certificate applicant to the Federal Aviation Administration. The AW609 programme will be managed by an integrated development team, based at AgustaWestland's headquarters in Cascina Costa, Italy, but a new base will also be established in Arlington, Texas to manage US-based tiltrotor operations.
The first two 609 prototypes have achieved more than 600 flight hours so far, and have validated the aircraft's flight envelope - including the ability to fly at altitudes of up to 25,000ft (7,600m)and cruise speeds up to 275kt (510km/h) at the aircraft's maximum weight.
The third prototype - now being manufactured in Italy - will be devoted to icing certification testing when it enters service next year, while the fourth prototype will be used for the development and integration of the new avionics systems.
AgustaWestland is seeking to approve the AW609 for short take-off and landing (STOL) procedures, to allow operations at increased maximum gross weights. This, it said will enhance the AW609's operational capability and help to widen its customer base.
To date, the Anglo-Italian company has only chalked up about 70 orders for the AW609s from 40 customers worldwide, but is confident the aircraft will attract significant interest.
"The tiltrotor concept is the answer to the growing need for an aircraft matching the vertical capabilities of the helicopter, with the speed, range and altitude capabilities of fixed-wing aircraft," said the airframer.
"The AW609 provides customers with a new way to fly, and AgustaWestland expects significant worldwide opportunities as there is no aircraft on the market that can come close to offering a similar capability."
Source: Flight International