Icing trials will soon begin on Leonardo helicopter division’s AW609 tiltrotor as the programme recovers from a nearly year-long flight test hiatus caused by a fatal crash of the second prototype in October 2015.
The third prototype aircraft will move soon from Philadelphia to Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to validate the AW609’s flight performance in known icing conditions, Leonardo says on 9 February.
The winter round of testing will keep the civil tiltrotor programme on track to receive airworthiness certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration in 2018.
The AW609 is the first fly-by-wire rotorcraft to apply for a commercial airworthiness certificate.
An interim investigation report released last June by Italy’s ANSV blamed the 2015 crash flawed control logic that reacted improperly to an unusual manoeuvre at the extreme limit of the AW609’s speed envelope.
The crash left Leonardo with the first prototype in Philadelphia and the third prototype in Italy. After flight testing resumed last year, the two aircraft traded places. The third prototype has since resumed flight trails to check out avionics and systems, performing basic hovering, hovering landing and maneouvres around Northeast Philadelphia Airport. The prototype will “shortly” perform short take-offs and climb up to 4,000ft, Leonardo says.
Leonardo also is working on the fourth AW609 prototype, which has been moved to the main production area in the Philadelphia factory to “ensure a smooth transition to the first production build aircraft” in 2018, the company adds.