AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi says the long-delayed decision on whether Bell Helicopter will cede its majority share in the BA609 civil tiltrotor program to minority partner AgustaWestland will be made by the end of June.

“The deadline to close one way or another is the end of June,” Orsi said at a press conference in Houston on 20 February as part of the 2010 Heli Expo show. “We have said we are ready to take the lead on that program.”

Orsi in September told Flight International that AgustaWestland parent company, Finmeccanica, had “authorised us to conclude negotiations within certain conditions to reach this important achievement", and more recently, that the two companies have been discussing a “restructuring and optimization of the programme” and have been evaluating the “best way forward” to ensure the success of vectored thrust twin-turboprop aircraft.

 BA609 AgustaWestland

He notes test flight activities for the first two prototypes “are progressing” while the two additional aircraft will join the test flight programme in 2011 and 2012, respectively. “I am convinced the tiltrotor technology based on the BA609 continues to be one of the most highly anticipated concepts ever, dramatically expanding the possibilities of what an aircraft can do,” he says.

Finmeccanica has said there is a market for 500 aircraft within 10 years of first delivery, including 40-50 for the Italian government. Orsi says BA609 certification in the US and European Union is on schedule for 2013 and that more than 80 of the $29 million aircraft have been ordered so far by 40 customers, including government agencies.

Luca Peruzzi in Italy contributed to this report.