Now in sole control of the civil tiltrotor program it had begun with Bell Helicopter Textron, AgustaWestland plans to begin certification flights of its renamed AW609 next year with the goal of obtaining FAA certification and begin deliveries by mid-2016. The company reports cash-backed orders in hand for some 70 units from 40 costumers in 15 countries. Two prototypes have been involved in initial flight tests. A third aircraft is being assembled in AgustaWestland Italian plants and will fly next year and it is to be followed by a fourth one in 2014.

The first AW609 prototype is in Arlington, Tex., and the second is in Italy. The two aircraft have already logged over 650 flying hours and have opened up 85% of the flight envelope.

The pace of the program began accelerating once AgustaWestland acquired Bell's stake last year. This has allowed a streamlining of the program, processes and financial aspects, reducing costs. AgustaWestland has established AgustaWestland Tiltrotor Co. in Arlington and is expanding its facilities and adding personnel, and expects the payroll to reach 150. Another 250 work on the program in Cascina Costa, Italy.

The original aircraft is being improved, starting with a new glass cockpit and a new satellite based navigation system. The company has not yet announced if production will occur in Texas as well as in Italy.

Bruno Spagnolini, AgustaWestland CEO, says the company's market forecast for the AW609 is set at 450-500 aircraft in 20 years. The aircraft's book price has not yet been announced but is expected to be no more than 50% higher than an unpressurized helicopter of the same weight class.