Leonardo performed the maiden flight of the first series production AW609 on 13 October. The tilt-rotor civil aircraft has been awaited for years and is expected to enter service in 2023.
The AC5 aircraft was assembled at Leonardo’s Philadelphia facility where three more AW609s are currently being manufactured. But despite being the first series production tilt-rotor, it will be used by Leonardo itself in the certification program and also as a demonstration aircraft.
“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 groundbreaking program has reached and our credentials to pioneer in the emerging fast rotorcraft domain,” said Gian Piero Cutillo, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters.
According to Leonardo, there are now four AW609s in flight, two of them in Italy and two in the United States, which have already completed almost 1,900 flight hours.
With its tilting rotors, the AW609 offers mixed helicopter and turboprop aircraft performance. Until today, only one aircraft of this type has been produced in series, the military V-22 Osprey, by Bell and Boeing, which were also the creators of the project that is now owned by Leonardo.
The tilt-rotor can carry up to nine passengers in a pressurized cabin, and can be used as an executive aircraft, but also in air ambulance, SAR, offshore and patrol missions, serving both the private and government sectors.
The AW609’s first customer will be the Bristow Group, which recently performed a demonstration flight with one of the prototypes. Leonardo also closed a deal to sell four aircraft to a European helicopter operator whose identity is kept confidential.