AgustaWestland AW609 tiltrotor aims for 2016 FAA certification


February 14, 2012

The AW609 tiltrotor aircraft from AgustaWestland combines the benefits of a helicopter with the benefits of a fixed wing aircraft

The AW609 tiltrotor aircraft from AgustaWestland combines the benefits of a helicopter with the benefits of a fixed wing aircraft

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We've been following the development of Eurocopter's X3 demonstrator with interest in recent years, but it's far from the only aircraft that aims to combine the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities of a helicopter with the speed, range and altitude capabilities of a fixed wing aircraft. Tiltrotor aircraft that feature powered rotors mounted on rotating shafts or nacelles at the end of a fixed wing have been around for half a century, the most famous probably being the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey. While the V-22 is a military aircraft, AgustaWestland is developing its AW609 as a multi-role aircraft aimed at private, commercial, and government markets.

The AgustaWestland AW609 started life in 1996 as the experimental tiltrotor Bell XV-15 developed by Bell/Boeing. After Boeing pulled out of the project in March 1998, Agusta came on board in September of that year. It then became the Bell/Agusta BA609 and development continued through the merging of Agusta and Westland Helicopters in 2000.

AgustaWestland announced another name change for the aircraft to the AW609 at the Paris Air Show in June 2011 as it announced its intention to buy Bell Helicopter out of the program. This acquisition was completed in November 2011 and AgustaWestland has established a new subsidiary at a site in Arlington, Texas, to manage FAA certification and flight-testing of the first AW609 prototype.

A second prototype is continuing testing in Cascina Costa di Samarate, Italy, with a third currently being assembled that will be devoted to icing certification testing. A planned fourth prototype will be used for the development and integration of new avionics and mission avionics.

AgustaWestland says the first two prototypes have already clocked up more than 650 flight hours and have proven the aircraft's ability to fly at altitudes of up to 25,000 feet and cruise at speeds of up to 275 knots at the aircraft's maximum takeoff weight of 16,800 lb (7,620 kg).

The AW609 is designed to fly with a crew of one or two and accommodate six to nine passengers. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67A turboshaft engines, each delivering 1,940 hp (1,447 kW), the AW609 boasts a range of 700 nautical miles (805 miles, 1,296 km).

AgustaWestland is aiming to receive FAA certification for the AW609 in the first half of 2016 with deliveries set to begin immediately after. The company says it has already received orders for around 70 of the aircraft to perform a range of commercial and government roles. AgustaWestland says the AW609's capabilities make it ideal for applications such as emergency medical services (EMS), search and rescue (SAR), transport for "deepwater" oil and gas facilities, and transporting VIPs and Heads of State to and from congested urban areas inaccessible for fixed wing aircraft.

Source: AugustaWestland

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

I assumed that anyone building a Tiltrotor that didn\'t need to fold up to conserve deck space on a carrier would have gone with a greater number of shorter rotor blades.


@ Slowburn - I think hover stability is helped by having a larger rotor disc.


from what I understand of the aerodynamics and stability the larger rotors also use less fuel with the added benefit of not vibrating the plane apart. Ad to that the speed at the end of the blade not having to be faster than the speed of sound.

Hilary Albutt

I am still waiting for one of these companies to throw the current designs in the trash and build an electric four prop vehicle with two turbines that are for generating with battery backup for emergency landing. Granted, electric motors and generators have weight and efficiency issues. But it would be much simpler (no 3000 PSI hydraulic systems, no rotating gas/electrical/hydraulic systems coming from the engines) and be able to land with a rotor out of commission. Maybe I am missing it, but these guys just keep doing more of the same. If it was not for the Osprey I doubt Sikorsky would be pushing forward on their X2 program......

re; PeetEngineer

The Sikorsky Skycrane has six blades on the main rotor and hovers just fine. ..........................................................................................................................

re; Hilary Albutt

The longer the rotor blade the lower the RPM it takes to get the blade tips going supersonic. In fixed wing mode the smaller rotor disk is advantages for speed and efficiency.


need more information about asymmetrical thrust and autorotation. in the osprey, when one engine fails or doesn\'t tilt properly due to sand, etc., you go down fast.

Ben Crumpacker

Problem with long rotor blades is the tip speed. Spin too fast, the tips will approach supersonic speed which would create unwanted vibrations. Then there is the safety issue with longer rotor blades. There is a balance between blade length and blade speed. A ducted fan might work but that would increase the weight, maintenance and cost.

Ed Yee

re; Ben Crumpacker

The V-22 osprey has a power sharing system for single engine operation and a feedback system to maintain symmetrical power and tilt.


Bell sold the BA609 prototype to AW under an agreement securing the exclusive right for Bell to conduct new developments and supply new parts. This means that AW, whose main market is defense, will in fact surrender any further development of its AW609 in order to comply with its main customers' policy aimed at keeping the airspace untampered by uncontrollable private civil VERTOL aircraft.

This in turn explains that AW has already built a completely new substitute tiltrotor concept called Project Zero, so as to make believe that they are about to renounce the AW609 in favor of an even more promising project.


Alas, project Zero is not to be seen as a serious concept because it has unproven aerodynamic features and even less autorotation capability than the AW609 -- whose civil certification date, BTW, has been endlessly postponed since its inception, as autorotation is mandatory for civil certification.

There is a similar stratagem played by ONERA (the French NASA) with their fully automatically flying four-seater electric aircraft developed as an EU-funded project limited to a 3-years time frame with a mere 4.5 million euro -- whereby the time limit and the weak investment (for a game-changing aircraft) are proof that ONERA likewise abides by military guidelines tending to keep civil VERTOL aviation strictly limited to a few public-service helicopters.

Other features of the ONERA project betray its deceptive character, such as the low aspect ratio of its wings for an electric aircraft (not to mention the planned take-off and landing on ramps!) besides its fancy optical design -- whereby the main purpose is obviously to discredit the only serious feature of the aircraft, i.e. fully automatic flight, which is long standing state-of-the-art.

Virtual full flight automation capability, together with modern composite materials and modern electric power plants (motors and batteries) from the automotive industry's forthcoming mass-production of EVs -- as well as the trend away from the motorcar for intercity individual mobility (highway traffic) -- threaten to awake a sleeping giant named Fully Automatically Flying Personal Ultra-Light Electric Rotary Wing VERTOL (Tiltrotor) Aircraft (alias massively popularized individual aeromobility).

This is no doubt the reason, BTW, why Google and the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) pretend they have automatically driving cars already tested in dense city traffic -- it's a hoax to make you believe that the motorcar has a brilliant future, whereas in fact, since Ford's model T, the motorcar and its sprawling road-networks are manly intended by the tenants of power to keep you grounded forever so as to grant them continued power enforcement ability from above...

How can you know if these cars seen in the videos to be driven hands-off are not steered by the drivers' feet?


@ euroflycars ... nice post but you lost me a little at the end :-)

Aircraft are only on the decline because they crossed a tipping point at some stage in the late 70s and early 80s when insurance liability etc went crazy. Before that, light aircraft were quite affordable, maybe twice the cost of a decent car. After that and more so recently, they're maybe 10 to 15 times the cost of a car! It's because the tipping point meant going from mass produced with good economies of scale to being a cottage-type industry, like super exotic cars or mega-yachts.

In addition, and this is something I bang on about on aviation forums, aircraft do have the issue of not being part of an integrated system. If you live and work in a region with multiple population centres separated by (say) hundreds of kilometres, modern, efficient aircraft make sense, provided you have cheap land transport ready to go at either end. Modern LSA-type aircraft are not expensive yet can efficiently get you between centres at about 3 times the typical ground speed of cars. With a proper integrated system, you can realise most of the time saving of light aircraft by jumping in a car or on a scooter (let's say) that is automatically booked for you.

I see no conspiracy here. For the average person, as time has gone by, the numbers progressively have made less and less sense - either time-wise or money-wise. This has been because the focus shifted to making airline transport cheaper. Now, with modern technology and the steadily declining passenger experience of airline travel, I believe that the opportunity does exist for the development of integrated transport systems with personal and "ride-share"-type aircraft incorporated within them and I can't see the "tenants of power" interfering.

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