DUBAI (Businesshala) – Italian aerospace firm Leonardo expects the US Federal Aviation Administration to 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 an aircraft, 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 as the aircraft is certified, which they expect to happen next year.
“We are very close to the final stage,” he told Businesshala at the Dubai Expo World’s Fair.
An FAA representative said in response to a query from Businesshala that the agency “does not comment on certification projects.”
Leonardo anticipates civil, government and military demand for the AW609, which includes transportation, search and rescue operations, border patrol and surveillance at offshore oil and gas sites.
“We are seeing a lot of interest,” Profumo said, including from potential buyers in the United States, Australia and Japan.
An AW609 prototype first flew in 2003 and four prototypes have been built, one of which crashed in 2015, killing two pilots.
Italy’s Flight Safety Agency recommended aerodynamic and software changes to the aircraft after the crash.