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AW609 TiltRotor

The unique characteristics of the AW609 TiltRotor combine the benefits of a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft into one aircraft, a true capability Hybrid aircraft. The AW609 TiltRotor features a composite airframe, advanced touch-screen cockpit and full fly-by-wire digital controls. These advanced technologies will provide new levels of performance, safety, reliability and affordability for operators.

Taking off and landing vertically, flying above adverse weather conditions in a pressurised cabin at twice the speed and range typical of helicopters, the AW609 TiltRotor represents the next generation of aircraft transport for commercial, para-public and defence markets.

This multi-role aircraft can be configured for commercial applications such as Executive and Private Transport, Energy Services, Emergency Medical Services, Search and Rescue as well as Defense and National Security applications like Homeland Security, Naval, Utility, and Personnel Recovery (SAR).

The pioneering combination of VTOL capability, long range high speed flight into known icing conditions with the comfort of a pressurized cabin enabling a safe service ceiling of 25,000ft makes the AW609 an unrivalled asset for Government or private SAR operations. When every second counts, the AW609 cuts response times approximately 50%, even in the most demanding situations. The specialized cabin, can accommodate up to two stretchers and all the SAR equipment, including a 600lb rescue hoist, needed for the mission. Successful maritime operations in the littoral and the open ocean require versatile maritime helicopters. The AW609 has the unique characteristics to operate in the harshest maritime environment and is the perfect solution for the certain support, surveillance, and logistics support (Ship to Ship / Ship to Shore) missions.

The AW609 is an ideal platform for border and maritime patrol, counter-terrorism, long-range surveillance, incident management and law enforcement. The ability to operate more than 300 nm from the coast adds anti-piracy, protection of national waters and fisheries control to the wide range of security roles suited to the AW609 Tiltrotor’s large mission capability portfolio.

The AW609 is a multi-mission aircraft for a wide range of missions in diverse geographic and climatic environments with multiple threats. It provides Government operators unique capabilities for personnel/logistics transport, and command and control teams. The AW609’s speed, range and VTOL capability enables rapid dispatch and utility support for the safe, secure movement of personnel or high priority parts.

The AW609’s versatility enables it to meet a variety of Personnel Recovery missions including; search and rescue, casualty/medical evacuation, quick reaction force insertion/extraction, hostage rescue, and humanitarian relief operations. The ability to quickly fly recovered personnel directly to the appropriate medical facility in a pressurized cabin is a distinct advantage for the AW609 tiltrotor.

The operation of a tiltrotor aircraft is very complicated, and needs the lift generated by the two engines arranged in the both sides of wingtip to be strictly balanced. Because if the lift is unbalanced, when amplified by the length of the wingspan, large rolling moment will be produced by the tiltrotor aircraft, which may make the aircraft out of control. Especially in the transition process from airplane mode to helicopter mode, the strong downwash generated by rotors will cause interference to the fuselage and empennage, etc., and result in complicated unsteady flow, making the aircraft’s operating conditions very harsh, as well as the aerodynamic stability. In such a situation, if it encounters gust wind and other adverse weather conditions, the lift on both sides of the aircraft may be seriously imbalanced, and thus make the aircraft lose control and crash.

In February 2012 AgustaWestland assumed ownership and control of the former Bell-Agusta BA609 civil tilt rotor aircraft program, moving the 150-person development team into a facility on the east side of Arlington Municipal Airport.

In the civil aircraft type certification process, a certification basis should be firstly determined in accordance with the appropriate regulations published by the civil authorities, based on the expected configuration characteristics, so as to obtain the basic technical requirements for the certification. For example, the certification basis of a transportation category rotorcraft should be determined according to FAR 29, and for a transportation category airplane, that is FAR 25.

BA609 is the first civil tiltrotor aircraft in the world to apply type certification, which faced the problem of lack of related regulations. In order to determine the certification basis of BA609, FAA has to follow the provisions in U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations § 21.17 and § 21.21, and takes it as a "special type" aircraft type for the certification. Finally, the certification basis of BA609 has adopted the applicable content both in FAR 25 and FAR 29, as well as a lot of new technical requirements developed from its inherent characteristics.

The second AgustaWestland AW609 prototype crashed in Northern Italy on 30 October 2015, killing test pilots Herb Moran and Pietro Venanzi. The aircraft was undertaking a flight plan that included tests at high speed. AgustaWestland said the tests on the flight plan were to demonstrate certain capabilities as agreed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) — and had already been successfully performed in previous flights.

Investigators said the prototype tilt rotor broke up in flight after a divergent dutch roll developed in a high speed dive. The Agenzia Nazionale per la Sicurezza del Volo (ANSV) said “the Pilot in Command (PIC) felt the onset of oscillations on the roll axis of the aircraft”. He counteracted this by a roll input, the conventional technique. However, the AW609's flight control laws introduced a yaw input, to counteract an expected flaperon aerodynamic effect in the yaw axis. This created what the ANSV referred to as a phenomenon “like an augmented dutch roll“.

The aircraft’s behavior at high speed was not completely predicted by the manufacturer. In fact, the simulator that was used for the development of the AW609’s flight control laws was unable to replicate the accident flight except through the input of unrealistic geometric and aerodynamic parameters.

With the third prototype, the FAA certification process proceeded with an aim of gaining approval in 2018. Leonardo had a fourth prototype at its Philadelphia assembly plant, which was scheduled to begin production in 2018.

In November 2015 the Joint Aviation Command (JAC) of the UAE became the launch customer for the AgustaWestland AW609 TiltRotor SAR variant. The JAC had three firm orders and three options of the AW609 TiltRotor. The first three aircraft are slated for delivery in 2019. “The AW609’s unique speed and range characteristics, combinedwith its ability to hover, will dramatically increase SAR mission capabilities of the UAE’s Joint Aviation Command.” The Joint Aviation Command said: “The AW609’s unique speed and range characteristics, combinedwith its ability to hover, will dramatically increase SAR mission capabilities of the UAE’s Joint Aviation Command. We look forward to operating the AW609 TiltRotor and utilizing the speed advantage it brings.” The UAE’s intention was to receive its aircraft in 2019.

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Page last modified: 22-06-2017 19:00:31 ZULU