Monday, August 17, 2015

AW609 on Certification Glide Path

AW609 (c/n 60001) N609TR

The AW609 civil tiltrotor program keeps rolling along: the wing and fuselage for Aircraft 4 were formally inducted into AgustaWestland’s (AW) Philadelphia assembly plant this summer, and new offices are being readied for an estimated program staff of 100 there, according to Clive Scott, AW609 program manager.

Scott said the company anticipates receiving certification in 2017 and beginning customer deliveries in 2018. The Italian airframer remains committed to announcing a price for the AW609 late this year for the six- to nine-passenger, 275-knot aircraft. It is expected to have a standard range of 750 nm or 1,100 nm with auxiliary tanks. Mtow from a STOL (rolling) takeoff could be more than 17,500 pounds.

We are ramping up on all functions,” Scott told AIN. “We have a lot of people coming up from [AW’s AW609 development facility in Arlington] Texas at the end of July. We also have people coming over from Italy and the UK. We are recruiting for all positions, including procurement, quality manufacturing engineering and customer support and training.”

Meanwhile Aircraft 1, which has been flying since 2003, has begun certification flight-testing in earnest, Scott reports, including evaluation of aeroelastic stability and producing certification data for the FAA. The FAA team working on the 609 is ramping up, too, to process the data, Scott said. Aircraft 1 is being used to conduct ice shape testing in September and October.

Aircraft 2 will remain in Italy, where it continues to do development work for new installations, such as validation of a new pitot-static system, and making some marketing flights, among them the recent celebration of AW’s centennial in Yeovil, UK, in July and the Royal Navy airshow.

Aircraft 2 is serving as the platform for cooperative work AW is doing with OGP service provider Bristow Group to develop a special variant of the AW609 geared to offshore energy markets. Aircraft 2 could be retrofitted with the larger, 35-inch-wide clamshell door that AW has developed for the AW609. That door will be incorporated into test Aircraft 3 and 4 and will be standard equipment on all production models. AW has lowered the cabin floor to provide more headroom, up to 60 inches.
AW and Bristow signed a broad-based memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding the AW609 at this year’s Heli-Expo show that was characterized as a multi-year, multimillion-dollar deal.

Bristow CEO Jonathan Baliff committed his company to ordering the aircraft and said Bristow’s AW609 fleet would be in the “double digits” and eventually could equal the size of its Sikorsky S-76 fleet. The AW609 order book stands at 70 aircraft.

Test Fleet Expanding

Aircraft 3 currently is being assembled in Italy and is expected to fly in September, before being shipped to the U.S. in October to join the test program; this aircraft will be sent to Minnesota for icing testing this winter. Aircraft 3 is fully instrumented to measure loads. It features a new de-icing system on the prop-rotors, wings, air intakes and windshields.

The system is a hybrid of multiple technologies from various suppliers, among them Zodiac for the pneumatic de-icing boots with new control valves on the wings and engine air intakes; Selex for the ice controller and power distribution to the electric deicing on the Bell prop-rotors; and United Technologies Aerospace Systems for the ice detectors. The electric system on the blades features systems for multiple blade sections and has primary and secondary power distributors for failsafe operation. The entire de-icing system is controlled by the aircraft management computer.

Aircraft 3 will be fitted with new Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-67A engines that Scott called “production representative” and have a 2-percent higher operating speed. AW will begin receiving production engines from P&WC in November. Aircraft 3 will carry new power and starter generators and new electrical hardware and components, Scott said.

Aircraft 4 is expected to fly by the middle of next year fitted with a production interior. It will be used to validate the kits being developed for the AW609 and will be fitted with various production-aircraft systems such as the Pro Line Fusion avionics. “A lot of the kits being developed, including forward-looking infrared (Flir) and hoists, need to be interfaced with the electrical system,” Scott explained.

While most of the suppliers for the program have been selected–including recently those for the environmental control system and the landing gear, and long-ago announced suppliers such as P&WC and Rockwell Collins for the Pro Line Fusion avionics–several key components (cabin seating, for example) remain to be finalized. The seats must comply with the higher loads mandated for helicopter seating and Scott hinted that AW is also price shopping on them. “We know what we want and we know what we need,” Scott said.

While working with Bristow, AW will first develop cabins tailored to the offshore energy industry, but certain aspects of executive and private cabins are coming together, with internal teams evaluating amenities such as onboard Wi-Fi. “We are having a lot of discussions on that internally with sales and marketing,” Scott said.

An interior design competition AW is sponsoring with Interni magazine of Milan, Italy, should also kick-start business cabin design on the AW609. The competition has attracted diverse entrants (not all of them from aerospace), among them Jozeph Forakis (U.S.), Setsu and Shinobu Ito (Japan), Ricardo Bello Dias (Brazil), Delineo-Giampaolo Allocco (Italy), Matteo De Pretis (Italy) and Marc Poulain (France). AW will announce the winner next month.

The contest mirrors one held to design the cabin of AW’s recently certified AW169 medium-twin helicopter, won by Lanzavecchia and Wai. AW said the competition helps to create concepts “beyond the usual interior design players and leading fashion design houses.”

(Mark Huber - AINOnline News)

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