After frustrated forecasts, Leonardo hopes to complete the first production AW609 tiltrotor by the end of 2021. According to the company, the aircraft is in the final stage of assembly at the plant in Philadelphia, USA.
This is more than a year behind the previous forecast, which called for completion in 2020, according to Flight Global.
The world’s first civil tiltrotor aircraft, the AW609 originally emerged from a partnership between Bell and Boeing in 1996. Leonardo (then Agusta) replaced Boeing in 2003 and years later took over the entire project.
In 2015, the program took its biggest blow after a fatal accident with one of the test aircraft in Italy. Currently, the company has three prototypes, two of them in Europe and one in the USA.
Leonardo, however, does not make any predictions about the certification of the AW609, which complies with a new requirement created by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and called “Powered Lift”.
In January 2020, the Italian company planned to enter into service in the following months, but the coronavirus pandemic hampered its plans.
To make room for the tiltrotor assembly line, Leonardo is expanding its facility in Philadelphia. The company also opened a US Training Academy in April, which will serve customers of the AW119, AW169 and AW139 helicopters in addition to the AW609.
According to Leonardo, offshore company Bristol Group will be the launch customer for the aircraft, capable of carrying up to nine passengers at a cruising speed of 275 kt (510 km/h) and an altitude of 25,000 ft (7,620 m).