Last week a flight crew from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) joined Leonardo Helicopters in its test program for the AW609, a civilian tiltrotor aircraft the company has been developing for several years.
The familiarization testing, which took place on March 16 and 17, marked the first time EASA officials flew the AW609. Pilots from the FAA had taken part in similar flight tests in February, the company said. The aircraft is moving through the certification process with both agencies.
Leonardo said the AW609 combines the takeoff and landing flexibility of a helicopter with the higher cruising speed and range of a traditional airplane. The tilt-rotor design is especially well-suited to missions including business transport and medical, rescue, and emergency services.
The aircraft, which bears a resemblance to the military Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, has a pressurized cabin and is designed to fly at around twice the speed of typical helicopters, at altitudes up to 25,000 feet, Leonardo said.
The aircraft’s development began in the 1990s as a joint project of Bell and Augusta, and was called the BA609. The advanced aircraft, with a composite structure and fly-by-wire control systems, has gone through numerous changes and modifications during its decades-long movement toward production. Delays have also kept it from meeting previous timelines for certification and entry into service.