Bell Backing Off From Civilian Tiltrotor?
Hailed as the ideal combination of speed and convenience for the business traveler, the BA609 tilt rotor aircraft, which has been prominently displayed at most major aviation trade shows in the past year, may be an aircraft whose time hasn't quite come yet, according to Bell. The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported this week that Bell is shifting most of the development work on the intriguing aircraft to its partner AgustaWestland, largely because it will be too pricey to find a market in the U.S.. "We designed the 609 for a new U.S. market and unfortunately we are not seeing that materialize, so we are looking at all options that make sense for the future of this program," Bell Helicopters CEO Dick Millman said in statement issued to the newspaper.
A smaller civilian cousin to the V-22 Osprey now in service with the military, the BA609's price was pegged at around $10 million during development. It could actually be double that and for the utility it provides (six to nine passengers) there are a lot of much faster and larger aircraft at half the price that don't upset local authorities who are increasingly resistant to aircraft landing in urban centers, which is the 609's most compelling ability. Millman said Europeans see such activity differently and that might be the best place to develop the aircraft. There are about 80 orders on the books for the aircraft, which won't be available for delivery until at least 2012.