Leonardo, manufacturer of the AW609, the world’s first civilian tiltrotor, announced on Wednesday that the Tokyo metropolitan government is considering ordering the aircraft to fly over to the Ogasawara Islands, also known as the Bonin Islands.

The archipelago, about 1,000 km from the Japanese capital, is made up of dozens of islands, including Iwo Jima, the site of a battle with the United States during World War II and which occupied it until 1968.

Capable of taking off and landing like a helicopter, the AW609 reaches a cruising speed of 275 knots (510 km/h) and flies at an altitude of 25,000 feet (7,620 m) with a pressurized cabin.

The AW609 “will enable complete reach to remote areas with its’ unique combination of high speed, long range, and vertical lift capability”, said its manufacturer, who added that the tiltrotor aircraft offers unmatched capacity in the market. “Missions would be performed in all weather conditions and with limited infrastructural impact thanks to its helicopter-like footprint.”

First two models in production

The AW609 tiltrotor is finally close to coming into operation after a turbulent development period. It emerged from a Bell and Boeing project based on the military model V-22 Osprey and later included the participation of the Italian company Agusta and the English company Westland.

AW609 in aeromedical configuration

The project suffered a severe setback in 2015 with the fatal accident with one of the prototypes. But two years later the flight program was resumed and another test aircraft was completed.

According to Leonardo, the first two series production AW609 are being assembled at the plant in Philadelphia, USA, which also plans to complete the aircraft’s first flight simulator by the end of the year.

The manufacturer claims to have more than 130 orders for the model, but has not yet obtained its certification, which will be of a new type established by the FAA, the US civil aviation agency.