Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Bell Helicopter Textron and Agusta have signed the agreement creating the Bell/Agusta Aerospace joint venture to be responsible for development and marketing of the BA609 civil tiltrotor and the AB319 medium twin-turbine helicopter. Bell is the majority shareholder.

The agreement cements a relationship which began in 1952, when Agusta received a licence to manufacture the Bell 47.The Italian company subsequently produced the Bell 204/205 and 206, as well as the 212/412, under licence.

Under the agreement, Agusta will manufacture parts for the BA609 and assemble the tiltrotor for European customers. Bell, in return, will assemble the AB139 for the North American market.

The 6/11-seat BA609 is planned to fly in late 2000, with first deliveries due in April 2002. Approval and first delivery of the 12/15-seat AB139 are planned in 2002. The AB139 will be powered by the same Pratt &Whitney Canada PT6C-67C turboshaft engines as the BA609, rated at 1,380kW (1,850shp). Agusta has selected Honeywell Primus Epic integrated avionics for the AB139, while Bell has chosen Rockwell Collins' Pro Line 21 system. Both feature large flat panel displays.

The A139 will have a cruise speed of 160kt (295km/h) and a maximum range of 730km (395nm). The helicopter is designed to have good single-engine performance, with Category A take-off performance at maximum gross weight up to ISA+20°C at 3,100ft (1,000m). Cat A performance means the aircraft can suffer an engine failure at any time during take-off and continue safely.

Source: Flight International