Bell Helicopter is close to finalising a deal with AgustaWestland to restart the long-delayed BellAgusta Aerospace BA609 civil tiltrotor programme.

Bell chief executive Mike Redenbaugh says Bell aims to resume flight testing with a second prototype based at Agusta's facility in Italy by the end of 2004. The first BA609 prototype flew for the first time early this year, but has been disassembled for study as AgustaWestland and Bell discuss potential changes to their joint venture company.

The BA609 is scheduled for certification in 2007. The programme has been hampered by delays, with Bell having to focus its tiltrotor efforts on the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey for the US Marine Corps. AgustaWestland has been looking to expand its participation in the Bell-led BA609, but discussions on restructuring have dragged on for several months.

A restructuring deal is nearly complete. The modified relationship includes resuming flight tests in the fourth quarter of 2004, and basing the second prototype in Italy. Certification is scheduled for 2007.

Source: Flight International