Bell Helicopter has sold its remaining stake in the BA609 tiltrotor program to joint venture partner AgustaWestland, with the Textron subsidiary to take on a smaller support role.
“I believe it is in the best interests of the program for AgustaWestland to assume ownership and management over the program going forward,” said Bruno Spagnolini, CEO of AgustaWestland. “We consider the tiltrotor concept as the answer to the growing need for an aircraft matching the vertical capabilities of helicopter with the speed, range and altitude capabilities of fixed wing aircraft. AgustaWestland is investing in the next generation of rotorcraft technologies and the AW609 and future tiltrotor concepts are part of our innovation commitment.”
AgustaWestland says the AW609 program will now be managed by a single ‘integrated development team’ based at Cascina Costa, Italy, from the northern autumn of this year, while the nearby Cameri site will be dedicated to the development program for AW609 government applications. AgustaWestland will also open a new operational base in Arlington, Texas, to manage US based tiltrotor operations.
Bell meanwhile will remain a key provider of engineering services and components for the program, with the company looking to focus on next generation tiltrotor research and development using the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey as a platform.
“This decision will free up research and development resources allowing Bell Helicopter to increase our investment in the revolutionary V-22, to develop the next-generation tiltrotor technologies for US Department of Defense programs and other applications, as well as increase our investment in our innovative commercial product line,” Bell Helicopter president and CEO John Garrison said.
AgustaWestland says “FAA/EASA certification is planned in 2015 with deliveries following immediately afterwards”.