Leonardo’s first production AW609 has made its maiden flight, in a significant milestone for the decades-long development and testing program. The aircraft, AC5 took to the air in Philadelphia on October 13 to test general handling and systems.
The AW609 is the world’s first multirole tiltrotor and will be introduced under a dedicated powered lift category civil certification now under development. The first production aircraft joins a prototype based in the USA and two more located in Italy, all currently involved in the last stages of testing activities ahead of FAA certification.
AC5 will be retained by Leonardo contributing to customer demonstrations, mission capability evaluation and expansion, and supporting the manufacturer and the operators in the transition from the developmental to the operational phase once on the market.
According to Leonardo, three customers’ production aircraft are on the dedicated final assembly line at various stages of construction in Philadelphia. Gian Piero Cutillo, managing director of Leonardo Helicopters said, “This amazing achievement adds to several milestones for the AW609 program over the last year, through its technical progress and during its public appearances.
“Together this testifies the level of maturity this ground breaking program has reached and our credentials to pioneer in the emerging fast rotorcraft domain. I thank our integrated team of skilled and committed people across our geographies for making all of this possible, as they continue to work towards certification.”
Earlier this year the AW609 launch customer in the United States, Bristow Group, participated in a demonstration flight in Philadelphia marking an important milestone as Leonardo and Bristow collaborate to introduce the AW609 aircraft into service.
The development of the AW609 can be traced back to 1998 by Bell and Augusta. The AW609 can transport up to nine passengers in a pressurized cabin and is aimed at private and business travel, emergency medical services, search and rescue, offshore operations, and patrol.
The development and testing program has logged nearly 1,900 flight hours in the USA and Italy. Users will be provided with comprehensive support and training packages, primarily headquartered at Leonardo’s new Training Academy in Philadelphia. Opened in 2021, it is home to the world’s first AW609 full-flight Simulator.