Era Group becomes launch customer for Leonardo AW609 Era Group. Photo courtesy of Leonardo
While Leonardo is not playing in the Future Vertical Lift arena thus far, the company said the expected FAA certification of the AW609 next year will be a game changer for civil aviation.
"We're in the process of certifying the first civil tiltrotor," Andrew Gappy, a former U.S. Marine helicopter pilot and Leonardo's director of government sales and programs, told a Royal Aeronautical Society FVL forum at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., Oct. 4. "It's been around for quite awhile. The AW609 is not new technology, and what it really represents for the market and rotorcraft aviation is it's the first."
"What we're really aiming to do is change people's behaviors and change how they view travel," Gappy said.
One possible use of the AW609 could be ferrying small groups of passengers to Manhattan without the delays associated with airplane travel, he said.
Gappy likened the AW609 to the military V-22. Before the latter was operational, "everyone knew what it could do on paper, but no one anticipated the impact it would have on military planning because it changed people's behaviors and assumptions," he said.
Safety is paramount to be successful as a civil rotorcraft operator, and large companies, such as Bristow Group, CHC and PHI bear that in mind, as a mishap can put them out of business, he said.
In February, Leonardo said Era Group will be the launch customer for the AW609 and that Era has ordered two 609s for a 2020 entry to service.
Earlier this year, Leonardo said it has received interest from operators for 50 609s.