World's First Civilian Tiltrotor Flying Again

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The Bell/Agusta BA609, a civilian version of the Osprey V-22 tiltrotor aircraft, flew in Arlington, Texas, last week for the first time since 2003. During the 1.3-hour flight, the crew tested hover mode forward, sideways and backwards, and navigated the pattern at 86 knots with 75-degree forward tilt on the outboard nacelles. During the next month, the aircraft will be tested in airplane mode, where it can achieve a top speed of over 275 knots, according to Bell. The BA609 will cruise at up to 25,000 feet and seat up to nine passengers plus two pilots. Bell says it has 60 orders for the aircraft. Dual certification (European and FAA) is planned in 2008, with deliveries following soon after. Bell said the programmed pause in flight testing was for developmental engineering configuration. The military Osprey program was temporarily derailed in December 2000 after two crashes killed 23 Marines.