Members of the media attending Heli-Expo in Dallas were treated to an aerial performance of the AgustaWestland AW609 tiltrotor. The Feb. 11 demonstration flight took place at Arlington Municipal Airport (KGKY), just outside of the aircraft’s local hangar. At the controls was senior program test pilot Pietro Venanzi.
The AW609—formerly the BA609, when Bell Helicopter was a partner in the program—launched from an area just out of sight of the crowd, and made its initial pass with the engine nacelles tilted slightly forward to produce what appeared to be about a 25-knot air taxi. It then paused in front of the wind-chilled spectators, where it performed smooth, hovering pedal turns through the 15-knot wind. Then, off it went.
A few seconds later, Venanzi returned at low altitude, driving the AW609 with its rotors in full airplane mode. The white and red aircraft blasted past the onlookers at well over 150 knots before executing a series of banking and twisting maneuvers with the agility of a bird of prey.
Test pilot Pietro Venanzi. Photos by Ernie Stephens
The demonstration concluded with a slower recital performed directly in front of the crowd at approximately 50 feet above the taxiway. With its rotors pointed straight up in helicopter mode, the aircraft slid from side to side, performed pirouettes, and ducked its nose, as if to be bowing to the appreciative audience. Vananzi then glided the aircraft into a run-on landing, and taxied it back its hangar.
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