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HV-609 / BA609 Tiltrotor

Bell was initially part of the AW609 project, but left in 2011. Instead, the company began work on the V-280 Valor, a prototype tiltrotor for the Army’s next generation of helicopters.

As the Coast Guard heads into the 21st century, Deepwater surface and air assets are approaching the end of their service lives. The $9.8 billion Deepwater Capability Replacement Project would replace these aging assets as they retire with an Integrated Deepwater System (IDS) of platforms, sensors, and command and control capabilities that would improve performance and optimize life-cycle costs. The Aviation MPT focuses on aircraft when reviewing industry proposals, which may include upgrades to current Deepwater helicopters and airplanes, and/or innovative new assets, such as tiltrotor aircraft and Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs).

The Coast Guard's Deepwater modernization initiative Deepwater involves the wholesale transformation of the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard currently employs 42 HH-60J Jayhawk medium-range recovery helicopters and 93 HH-65A Dolphin short-range recovery rotorcraft. Service officials have the chance to design new platform capabilities without the constraints of existing systems. Many in the Coast Guard think the BA609 tiltrotor might be the service's most cost-effective air platform-because it combines in one aircraft hover capability and fixed-wing speed.

The BA609 Tiltrotor combines the speed, altitude and comfort of a turboprop with the vertical takeoff and landing capabilities of a helicopter. The performance characteristics of the Bell/Agusta BA609 Tiltrotor offer coast guards of the world capabilities and cost-effectiveness simply not available in any other single aircraft. Designed from the outset for low life cycle costs and maximum operational flexibility, the BA609 offers coast guard operators highly cost-effective and time efficient point-to-point transportation at speeds up to 275 knots and ranges to 750 nm. Pressurized and able to fly into known moderate icing, the Bell Agusta BA609 would be responsive to the range of coast guard environments. Search and Rescue (SAR), surveillance, interdiction, joint operations, enforcing fishing laws - today's coast guard responsibilities range far, wide and are always urgent using a variety of aircraft in tandem with surface ships.

With its nacelles in the vertical position, the tiltrotor is able to take-off, land and hover like a traditional helicopter. When the nacelles are tilted forward to the horizontal position, the aircraft is able to fly with the high speed and range of a turboprop fixed wing airplane. The transition from helicopter mode to airplane mode takes 20 seconds, as does the transition from airplane mode to helicopter mode.

Locating distressed vessels or those engaged in illegal activities, many coast guard missions deploy fixed wing aircraft with the range and speed to get to the target quickly, make visual contact, and then work with helicopters, cutters, or both, for rescues and interdiction. Twice as fast as helicopters of similar capacity, the BA609 can take off and land vertically, even stage from the helipad of a large cutter for limited at-sea deployablility. With anti-ice/de-icing capability, the BA609 can fly IFR at altitude to avoid detection and then descend to sea level quickly.

Bell/Agusta reported 83 advance orders for the BA609 tiltrotor from 44 different customers in 23 different countries. First deliveries for the BA609 was initially scheduled for 2002-2003. Bell/Agusta is a joint venture between Bell Helicopter Textron and Agusta, a Finmeccanica company, to design, develop, produce and market the BA609 and the AB139 twin engine helicopter. As the Bell-Agusta BA609, the TiltRotor first flew on 06 March 2003. Bell originally had a 75 percent stake in its joint-venture with AgustaWestland. Although it has splendid advantages and good prospects in the future, there are also many inherent deficiencies at present. Including but not limited to the following areas: lower hover performance contrasted to helicopter, reduced forward flight performance against to propeller aircraft, defective reliability and maintainability, burdensome cost, and issues about airworthiness and safety.

The road for the BA609 was not smooth. As early in February 11, 2002, the journal of "Flight International" pointed out that, for BA609 project, “Certificating the tiltrotor for safe civil operation is perhaps the programme's biggest challenge”. Since its first flight in March 2003, the planned time to get type certificate (TC) has been repeatedly delayed. In June 2011, Bell Company decided to abandon that type, while Agusta-Westland announced the formal buyout of the project, and renamed it as AW609. Although Bell Helicopter would continue to fulfill its role of the task in the design and type certification, this event has undoubtedly cast a shadow to the prospect of its remained certification work in the future. It can be seen from the difficult airworthiness certification process that the airworthiness issues effect to the development of civil rotorcraft.

By 2008 Bell had concluded the potential US market for the civilian BA609 would be slim and shifted a larger part of development work on the BA609 tilt-rotor to Italian partner AgustaWestland. Most of the 80 orders for the 6-9 passenger aircraft had been on the books for a decade at a $10 million price, and neither side had quoted a firm asking price for the BA609 in years. Bell officials said the cost/benefit equation simply didn't work at a $15-$20 million price point.



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