Civilian Tiltrotor Rotates ... Its Nacelles

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The world's first civilian tiltrotor aircraft rose vertically for the first time from Bell Textron's Flight Research Center in Arlington, Texas, on Thursday. The maiden flight of the Bell Agusta 609 lasted 36 minutes and included hovering, turns, forward and backwards flight as well as four takeoffs and landings. Test pilot Roy Hopkins reported the aircraft performed as expected but Bell CEO John Murphey could barely contain himself. "This achievement is as remarkable as when the Bell X-1 first broke the sound barrier 50 years ago," he enthused. AVweb was unable to reach Chuck Yeager for comment, but did find news on the military's troubled V-22 Osprey. While the champagne corks popped in Arlington, engineers trying to make the 609's military cousin fly were dealing with hydraulic pressure issues of their own. Flight testing of the V-22 Osprey has been suspended for at least a couple of weeks while high- and low-pressure hydraulic lines that control the aircraft's swashplate actuators are replaced. A quality control team found some production lots of the quarter-inch lines didn't meet specs, so all 20 lines in each aircraft are being replaced. Now they're wondering if there are other areas of the aircraft with suspect hydraulic lines. New suppliers are being sought for the lines. The V-22 Joint Program Office expects "normal" flight operations to resume by March 20 as they continue to groom the aircraft for crucial funding decisions that are expected later this year.