Leonardo Helicopters remains confident that it will gain certification later next year for its AW609 civil tiltrotor, despite the fact that the final flight-test prototype has yet to fly.

Speaking at the Helitech show on 16 October, Roberto Garavaglia, senior vice-president of competitive analysis and strategy, said that the AW609 is "on the path to certification at the end of next year".

The fourth and final flight-test article – the first to be fitted with the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion flightdeck – is now in final assembly at the airframer's Philadelphia, Pennsylvania facility and should fly "by the beginning of 2019", says Garavaglia.

Having lost the programme's second aircraft in a fatal crash in October 2015, flight testing has been conducted with the two remaining prototypes, aircraft one and three, which are located in Italy and the USA, respectively.

Certification is being led by the US Federal Aviation Administration, with European approval to follow later.

However, that process is complicated by the unique nature of the AW609, which will be a "new category" of aircraft, says Garavaglia.

Although European Aviation Safety Agency officials have been shadowing the certification effort, Garavaglia cautions that the time required to gain its approval "will depend on how much EASA wants to reinvent the wheel".

"But I am confident that most of what has been done by the FAA will be accepted by EASA as well."

The launch customer remains USA-based Era Group, which in February signed a firm order for two examples. It will use the tiltrotor for both emergency medical services and corporate transport operations.

Era will operate a version configured with "six to nine seats" to conduct "an initial phase of entry-into-service testing", he adds, as well as demonstration flights on the airframer's behalf.

Source: FlightGlobal.com