Bell Sells BA609 Tiltrotor

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Bell Helicopter announced at the Paris Air Show on Tuesday that it will sell off its BA609 civilian tiltrotor to AgustaWestland, which has been a partner in the program. Bell will continue to supply engineering services and key components for the aircraft. The decision will free up R&D resources for the V-22 Osprey and other projects, both military and commercial, said Bell CEO John Garrison, including the development of next-generation tiltrotor technologies. No terms were disclosed for the sale. "They [AgustaWestland] are going to take it over and do what they think is best for it," Bill Schroeder, a Bell spokesman, told the Star-Telegram, of Fort Worth, Texas. Two 609s now are flying, one in the U.S. and one in Italy, and have logged almost 600 hours.

Bell says the 609 "combines the speed, altitude, and comfort of a turboprop with the vertical takeoff and landing capabilities of a helicopter," with cruise speeds up to 275 knots and a 750-nm range. The aircraft can be used for executive transport, offshore operations, search and rescue, medevac, and law enforcement. AgustaWestland, an Anglo-Italian helicopter company, is owned by Finmeccanica, an Italian corporation. It will form a new U.S. company called the Bell Agusta Aerospace Company and open a base of operations in Arlington, Texas. The company will rebrand the tiltrotor as the AW609. AgustaWestland said in a statement it is "fully committed to rapidly proceed with the AW609 program development, capitalizing on the activities already performed so far." The deal needs to secure approval from regulators in Europe and the U.S.