PARIS AIR SHOW
How do you fit an air show appearance into a tight flight test program, even one as deliberate, shall we say, as that for the Bell/Agusta Aerospace Co. BA609? Make the show demonstration part of the test program is AgustaWestland’s answer.
That’s what the company did to permit the civil tilt-rotor to make its flying debut at the Paris Air Show this year, according to AgustaWestland CEO Guisseppe Orsi. He told Rotor & Wing that the No. 2 prototype was instrumented for telemetry on its visit to Le Bourget, and data from its flights (the first public one on June 18) was downloaded and sent to development partner Bell Helicopter in Texas for analysis.
While a BA609 mock-up had been shown at Paris before, this was the first time a live civil tilt-rotor appeared and flew. It came 26 years after the Bell XV-15, predecessor of the BA609 and its sister aircraft, the Bell/Boeing V-22, debuted at Paris.
AgustaWestland brought the BA609 to Paris from Cameri, Italy, where it is performing flight tests. En route, the aircraft visited and performed at the Giornata Azzurra 2007 air show at the Italian air force base at Pratica di Mare, where the Italian air force flight test and evaluation unit looked over the tilt-rotor.
The No. 1 BA609 prototype made its first test flight at Bell’s Arlington, Texas research facility on March 6, 2003, four years later than planned. The Italian prototype first flew at Cameri on Nov. 9, 2006. Two more aircraft are to join the flight test program, one in Texas and one in Italy. Bell/Agusta now hopes to gain certification of the aircraft by late 2010 or early 2011.