Bell Helicopter and Agusta Aerospace have set 2010 as the target date for US and European certification of their joint BA609 civilian tiltrotor and 2011 for first customer deliveries. The partners flew the second prototype aircraft, built in Italy, during the Paris air show at Le Bourget. The third and fourth prototypes are scheduled to be completed and fly next year. Total flight hours for the two prototypes has topped 200h.
Bell's XworX facility in Texas has been the focal point for most of the testing so far, with test pilots putting the aircraft through "all corners of the flight envelope, including speeds up to 304kt (560km/h) in full airplane mode, as well as rearward and sideward flight at 35kt in helicopter mode," says Bell.
Pilots have also tested handling qualities at altitudes as high as 25,000ft (7,620m). The hybrid has a maximum cruise speed of 275kt and top cruising altitude of 25,000ft. The company says it has installed a "third generation software package" that will help "further refine operations of the flight control system."