Leonardo Progressing Assembly Of Production-Standard Tiltrotors

Credit: Mark Wagner/Aviation Images

DUBAI—Leonardo Helicopters has rolled out the first production-standard AW609 commercial tiltrotor.

AC5 was finalized at the company’s facility in Philadelphia during the fall and is currently undertaking ground tests in support of the certification of the aircraft, Bill Sunick, Leonardo’s senior AW609 marketing manager, told ShowNews on Nov. 15. 

AC5 is the first AW609 to be produced as such—the four prototypes which supported the development program have all been modified from when the aircraft was first developed as the Agusta-Bell BA609. The aircraft is expected to take flight in early 2022.

The milestone emerged as the company debuted the tiltrotor in the flying display of this year’s Dubai Airshow.

The company brought the fourth prototype, AC4, to the United Arab Emirates on Sept. 10 after a three-day ferry flight from Italy to be present for the opening of a specially designed terminal building developed in conjunction with the UAE’s Falcon Aviation Services. Named Casa Agusta, the facility is now supporting helicopter operations from Dubai’s Expo 2020. 

Leonardo used the presence of the tiltrotor to relaunch its old Agusta brand to market its VIP products. Since September it has conducted several flights in the Gulf and the decision was taken to keep the aircraft in the region for the Dubai Airshow.

The company will not be drawn on the certification schedule for the rotorcraft but is hoping to accelerate and finalize certification-testing after progress was hampered by the pandemic. Assembly of the sixth aircraft, destined for launch customer Bristow Group, is proceeding. The engine nacelles are being fitted to the main wing, a process that precedes the fitting of the wings to the fuselage.

As part of its display at the air show, the AW609 performs a series of high-speed passes in fixed-wing mode before transitioning to helicopter mode to perform a series of low-speed maneuvers, including from side to side, before concluding with a bow to the Dubai audience below.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.