Aircraft

Third AW609 tiltrotor prototype resumes testing following fatal crash

Third AW609 tiltrotor prototyp...
Aircraft AW609 A/C3 recently underwent restrained ground testing in Italy
Aircraft AW609 A/C3 recently underwent restrained ground testing in Italy
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Aircraft AW609 A/C3 recently underwent restrained ground testing in Italy
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Aircraft AW609 A/C3 recently underwent restrained ground testing in Italy

After a six month hiatus, ground tests have resumed on the third prototype (A/C3) of the AgustaWestland AW609 tiltrotor. The aircraft recently underwent restrained ground testing with all engines and systems online after testing was suspended following a fatal air crash on October 30, 2015, which cost the lives of two test pilots.

According to Leonardo-Finmeccanica, the recent ground tests involving the third prototype follow on the heels of the restart of the testing program in April and took place at the company's facilities in Cascina Costa, Italy, where the aircraft was tied to the ground with all systems powered up and running.

Flight tests are set to resume in a few months in Philadelphia, with the long-delayed FAA certification now expected sometime in 2018 with first deliveries to begin shortly afterward. In the meantime, A/C3 will undergo icing tests, and a fourth prototype, A/C4, is currently being assembled in Philadelphia and is expected to join the fleet next year.

Starting life in 1996 as the experimental tiltrotor Bell XV-15 developed by Bell/Boeing, the AW609 tiltrotor combines the VTOL and hovering abilities of a helicopter with the payload, speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft. It has a cruising speed of 275 kt (316 mph, 509 km/h), an operating altitude of 25,000 ft (7,620 m), and can carry crew of up to two and six to nine passengers in pressurized comfort for up to 1,000 nm (1,150 mi, 1,850 km). It's offered in passenger, surveillance, search and rescue, and medivac versions.

The testing program was temporarily suspended last year when the second prototype broke up in midair over northwest Italy during a high-speed test flight, killing test pilots Pietro Venanzi and Herb Moran.

Source: Leonardo-Finmeccanica

6 comments
riczero-b
Take the inherent risks of the helicopter ( gearbox/ rotor link stresses) multiply by two rotors, and multiply by two again for the tilt action ; never going to be a civil aircraft.This turkey's going to be roasted in the next round of spending cuts and the Eurocopter bought in.
JayDeeDubya
Why are we still having problems with this? US DOD has been flying V-22 Ospreys for almost a decade without major incident. Did the science and technology to make this work just not make it across the pond?
guzmanchinky
As far as I can tell they still don't know what caused the crash. How can this still be moving forward?
habakak
Electric motors will make this a much more viable solution. Battery tech needs another 7 to 12 years though.
Sleepycod
very sad for casualties of aviation science. yes americans using osprey for years - means this is old tech... habakak is right, electric is the real way to do it. maybe 8+ smaller props for redund instead of two giant props. hopefully power/battery tech not too many years away.
Nostromo47
Considering the monumental problems, including several horrendous fatal crashes encountered in the development of the Osprey, a fatal crackup of a prototype AW-609 is hardly surprising. Like the Osprey, the AW-609 is an immensely complex piece of high powered machinery in a novel form that has been years in the making. Getting this right is an extremely difficult engineering challenge. Whether or not it can be developed into a reliable and safe form of high speed transportation that can make it in the marketplace is still yet to be proven. Certainly, observers are cheering on the efforts of AgustaWestland as their success would be a real step forward in aviation. BTW, that big stairway in the photo is one heck of a convenient entry ramp for the crew!