PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 19, 2022 – The world’s first multipurpose tiltrotor program, designed to redefine a range of commercial and public services, has marked a major milestone with the maiden flight of the first production aircraft, the AW609. This aircraft introduces unprecedented capabilities under a dedicated “Powered Elevator Category” civilian certification currently under development. The aircraft, designated AC5, took off from the Leonardo site in Philadelphia on October 13 and performed the initial assessment of systems and general in-flight handling as expected.
The first production aircraft joins a prototype in the US and two others in Italy, all of which are currently involved in the final stages of testing activities ahead of FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) certification. AC5 will be retained by Leonardo to contribute to customer demonstrations, assessment and expansion of mission capability, and to support the manufacturer and operators in the transition from development to post-launch operational phase. Currently, three customers’ production aircraft are in various stages of construction in Philadelphia on the dedicated final assembly line.
Gian Piero Cutillo, MD Leonardo Helicopters said: “This amazing achievement complements several milestones for the AW609 program over the last year, through its technical progress and during its public appearances. Together, this is a testament to the level of maturity this groundbreaking program has reached and our credentials as a pioneer in the burgeoning fast rotorcraft space. Thank you to our integrated team of skilled and dedicated employees across all regions who have made all of this possible as they continue to work toward certification.”
Earlier this year, the AW609’s launch customer in the United States, Bristow Group, took part in a demonstration flight in Philadelphia, which marks an important milestone as Leonardo and Bristow work together to bring the AW609 aircraft into service. Also, the AW609 user base was further expanded in March 2022 with the addition of an unnamed, long-established European operator of Leonardo’s helicopters, which is seeking the introduction of four tiltrotors to perform a range of personnel transport missions that will extend its point-to-point Operation support worldwide.
The AW609 will revolutionize air travel thanks to its rotorcraft-like versatility and airplane-like performance. The AW609 excels in fast long-distance point-to-point transportation, whether it’s connecting inner cities or timely access to remote places. Capable of carrying up to nine passengers comfortably in a pressurized cabin, it transforms personal and business travel, EMS, SAR, offshore operations and patrol, serving both the private and government sectors.
To date, the program has completed almost 1,900 flight hours in the United States and Italy. Extensive support and training packages are made available to users, primarily based at Leonardo’s new training academy in Philadelphia. Opened in 2021, it houses the world’s first AW609 full-flight simulator.
Photo courtesy of Leonardo