The president of the United States has one, and soon you will be able to fly in or purchase your own tiltrotor aircraft. Meet AgustaWestland’s AW609, the bird that takes off as helicopter, flies like an airplane, and lands, again, like a helicopter.
Right now there are only two AW609 prototypes in existence, and they are undergoing test flights. But AgustaWestland says they expect to obtain the Federal Aviation Adminsitration’s first ever tiltrotor certification by 2017.
One the two prototypes was on display a few days ago at Heli-Expo 2015 in Orlando, Fla. This was the first time, according toFlying Magazine, that an AW609 was seen in a public exhibition.
While in Florida, AgustaWestland announced that they and Bristow Group Inc. had signed a development agreement for the AW609. In their press release, AgustaWestland said,
Under the agreement, AgustaWestland and Bristow will work to support the development of oil & gas and search and rescue dedicated configurations and capabilities.
Here’s a tweeted picture of the AW609, which was sporting a Bristow/Eastern Airways paint job at the expo.
— AgustaWestland (@AgustaWestland) March 3, 2015
Bristow, in turn, made deals with Airnorth and Eastern Airways to use the tiltrotor aircraft for commercial flights. The Texas-based company will use the AW609 to provide transportation to oil rigs in remote locations.
The AW609, with its VTOL capabilities, has a range of 750 nautical miles and a top speed of 510 kilometers per hour.
“We see tremendous opportunities for this aircraft,” Jonathan Baliff, President and CEO of Bristow, said, “for our clients who are flying to more remote and hostile environments.” The company currently flies to many offshore locations including the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, and Nigeria.
AgustaWestland says that it has about 60 civil and military customers signed-on and waiting for their AW609. They intend to relocate their ongoing flight tests from Italy to the US. And eventually, AgustaWestland will build the AW609 in their Philadelphia plant.