Bell Boeing will make a decision on launching development of a nine-passenger civil tilt-rotor, dubbed the D600, "later this year", says Bell Helicopter Textron president Webb Joiner. Bell and Boeing Helicopters are conducting pre-design studies into the market for a 6,350kg-class tilt-rotor, he says.

A cabin mock-up has been built and is being used to determine customer requirements for the aircraft, which would be offered in the corporate, utility and emergency-medical-service markets.

Joiner says that Bell's efforts to develop a replacement for its Model 412 in the medium-twin category are now focused on the D600. "We believe the next aircraft in the medium market will be a tilt-rotor. We are trying to define the right product for the medium market, but we are not there yet," he says.

Several engines are being considered, including commercial variants of the AlliedSignal/Allison T800. Other possibilities are the MTU Turbomeca Rolls Royce MTR390 and a new Pratt & Whitney Canada engine. The D600 is likely to feature a substantial amount of composites in the airframe, to reduce weight, Joiner says.

The exact time-scale and price have yet to be decided, he says. The aircraft is likely to be more expensive than a new medium helicopter to reflect its greater capability, but the price "will be competitive", he says. Seat-kilometre costs will be about half those of a medium-twin helicopter.

Source: Flight International