|The dispersion of the AW609’s wreckage is one indication of a midair breakup.
Photo courtesy of Associated Press
International investigators are combing data from flight recorders, telemetry, systems designs and wreckage for clues as to why an AW609 broke up in flight during October 2015 high-speed tests in Italy.
Among other areas, investigators are working to ensure they understand the design and function of the software laws for controlling the AW609’s flight surfaces, nacelles and rotors.
The No. 2 prototype (N609AG) was 27 min into the Oct. 30 flight test when real-time telemetry was lost, said AgustaWestland, adding that there was no further contact.
AW said the tests in restricted airspace included high-speed ones that the No. 1 tiltrotor had performed successfully and had been defined with the certification agency, the U.S. FAA. “The aircraft proved fully serviceable” in approved pre-flight checks, AW said.
Wreckage fell in cornfields a short distance from Santhià, about 30 nm west-southwest of the aircraft’s departure point, AW’s base at Cascina Costa di Samarate.
Major parts—but not all of the aircraft—landed within about 300 ft of each other in one field. These included the two engine/rotor sets, which were distant from each other and had wing sections attached. The fuselage landed nearby, with the empennage attached but with horizontal stabilizer sections missing.
Each wreckage set burned on the ground, but there was no sign of heavy fire damage to surrounding cornstalk stumps, nor was the earth around the debris plowed up.
The investigations include a criminal one, per Italian law, as well as an accident probe by Italy’s Agenzia Nazionale per la Sicurezza del Volo (ANSV) with participation from the U.S., the European Aviation Safety Agency and Italy’s civil aviation authority. AW is cooperating.
Italian investigators also have enlisted Bell Helicopter, which developed the flight control laws under the Bell-Agusta BA609 program. AW took full control of the program in 2011.
The crash killed veteran test pilots Pietro Venanzi and Herb Moran.