Leonardo’s helicopter division appears poised to resume flight testing of its AgustaWestland AW609 civil tiltrotor after a largely self-imposed grounding in the wake of an October fatal crash of the second flight-test article.
Speaking at the show earlier today, Giovanni Soccadato executive vice-president strategies, markets and business development, said Leonardo was now “clear to restart testing”.
He gives no precise timeline for the resumption of flight-test activities, but says ground trials have already recommenced in Italy.
Those evaluations are being conducted with the third prototype, which had until recently been impounded by a magistrate probing the 30 October accident in the north of Italy.
That aircraft has now been released, says Leonardo, and will transfer to the USA “by the end of September”.
AC1, the oldest of its test fleet, remains in the USA could resume the certification effort ahead of its Italy-based sibling, Leonardo says, although will subsequently swap places with the other AW609.
“We are co-operating with the US Federal Aviation Administration to restart test activities,” it says.
Leonardo is now aiming for end-2018 for first delivery of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-powered tiltrotor, and Soccadato is confident that it can meet that target. Certification had previously been scheduled for 2017.
“I think we can continue to move on to certification, it is not impacting the delivery dates we have initially defined,” he says.
Accident investigators in Italy recently linked the fatal crash with the AW609’s flight-control laws, noting that its high-speed aerodynamic behaviour had been poorly understood by the manufacturer.
Leonardo says it has already begun implementing the safety recommendations contained in investigation body ANSV’s interim report.
Source: Flight Daily News