Tiltrotor Production Planned

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The first civilian tiltrotor aircraft could be available for sale in 2017 and it will be built in Philadelphia. Agusta Westland announced Tuesday the AW609 will be certified in the U.S. and go into production at facilities it already operates in Philadelphia. In a series of presentations at its sprawling display area at HAI Heli-Expo in Orlando, company officials said two flying flight test aircraft have accumulated 1,200 hours and two more will join the test program this year. The aircraft will take off and land vertically but also climb to 25,000 feet and cruise at more than 250 knots with up to nine passengers. Business, paramilitary and military markets are being targeted for the aircraft.

In 2011, Agusta Westland acquired full control of the former Bell/Boeing tiltrotor project, which produced one of the prototypes now being flown at Agusta Westland's Arlington, Texas, test facility. The Texas test article was flown to Orlando from Texas and test pilot Paul Edwards said it performed well. "It's great to fly," he said. The company says it has made many changes to the original Bell/Boeing design. New Pratt&Whitney Canada engines and aerodynamic refinements have resulted in the production design. The company hasn't named a price but it's believed to be in the $24 million range.