Italy’s Leonardo expects FAA certification of AW609 tilt-rotor next year © Reuters.
DUBAI (Reuters) – Italian aerospace firm Leonardo expects the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration will certify the AW609 aircraft in 2022, nearly two decades after the first test flight.
The AW609 is a twin-engine tilt-rotor aircraft that can take off like a helicopter but flies like a plane, giving it greater speed and distance than normal helicopters.
Chief Executive Alessandro Profumo said the first two AW609s built for a customer were in production and would be delivered as soon the aircraft is certified, which he expects will be next year.
“We’re pretty close to the final step,” he told Reuters at the Dubai Expo world fair.
An FAA representative said in response to a Reuters query that the agency “does not comment on certification projects.”
Leonardo forecasts civil, government and military demand for the AW609, including for transport to offshore oil and gas sites, search and rescue operations, border patrol and surveillance.
“We are seeing a lot interest,” Profumo said, including from potential buyers in the United States, Australia and Japan.
An AW609 prototype first took flight in 2003 and four prototypes have been built including one that crashed in 2015, killing the two pilots on board.
Italy’s flight safety agency recommended aerodynamic and software changes to the aircraft following the crash.