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BA609 Tiltrotor Completes Ground Runs

ARLINGTON, Texas --- The Bell/Agusta 609, jointly developed by Bell Helicopter, a Textron company and by Agusta, an AgustaWestland company, has completed its ground run and taxi testing in preparation for first flight planned for mid-April 2003.

Ground runs for the world's first commercially available tiltrotor started December 6, 2002, and were conducted at Bell's Flight Research Center, Arlington, Texas.

"The ground run and taxi testing program went very well," said BA609 Program Executive Director Jack Gallagher, adding, "We have accomplished 100% of the planned test conditions in 32 hours of rotor turn time over five weeks of testing".

"The 609, for a new developmental aircraft has done better than any other aircraft---helicopter or tiltrotor---than I've ever seen," declared Bell/Agusta 609 Project Pilot Roy Hopkins. Hopkins, the world's most experienced tiltrotor pilot with 1,000 pilot in command hours on XV-15 and V-22 aircraft added, "the 609 was virtually trouble free and that's a tribute to the superb engineering and manufacturing team that built this aircraft."

During the ground run engine and systems testing the BA609 was tethered to a ramp specially constructed for tiltrotor aircraft. Taxi testing was conducted on the main runway of Arlington Municipal Airport, home of Bell's Flight Research Center. "The BA609 has very good ground handling capabilities," Hopkins said, adding, "The aircraft tracked very well down the runway both during acceleration and deceleration."

BA609 ground test achievements include:

--All Engines Operational (AEO) power up to 1725 rotor shp including 2+ hours at or above maximum continuous power --One Engine Inoperative (OEI) testing including OEI power up to 2300 engine shp (30 second limit) and 0.5 hours per side at OEI Max Continuous Power (MCP) with full differential collective (cross shaft loading) --Failure mode testing including single Flight Control Computer (FCC), single hydraulic, 3 DC generators (down to aircraft battery), FCC processor switching (to secondary processor channels), and ISU source select of Standby Flight Display --Torsional stability checks at all power levels, OEI and AEO --Rotor stability checks between 70 and 102% rpm (NR) at flat pitch and at 9 degrees collective. --Loads and motion including full 10 degrees of rotor flapping and full differential collective to take-off power --Nacelle conversion between 95 and 75 degrees including full flapping at MCP --Rotor controls hysterisis and frequency response testing --Engine emergency shutdowns --Rotor overspeeds to 105% --Completed electromagnetic compatibility test --Unrestrained ground run including on-ground Pilot Augmented Oscillation (PAO) and Aero-elastic Stability Evaluation

"This ground test program has been enormously successful and everyone on the BA609 team is to be congratulated," declared Bell Helicopter's Chairman and CEO John Murphey.

With its rotors in the vertical position, the tiltrotor is able to take-off, land and hover like a traditional helicopter. When the rotors are tilted forward to the horizontal position, the aircraft is able to fly with the high speed and range of a turboprop fixed wing airplane. The transition from helicopter mode to airplane mode takes 20 seconds, as does the transition from airplane mode to helicopter mode. This versatile capability enables the BA609 to fly with twice the speed and range of conventional helicopters.

The BA609, a six to nine passenger aircraft, is expected to be certified by the FAA in 2007 with first deliveries to begin immediately following. Currently there are 70 orders for the BA609 from 40 customers in 18 countries. Bell/Agusta will produce a total of four prototype tiltrotor aircraft for flight-testing. Final assembly for production aircraft will take place at Bell's Amarillo, Texas, facility with another assembly line to be established at the Agusta plant in Italy. Fuji Heavy Industries of Japan has the contract to build all of the production fuselages for the BA609. All parts and components for both lines will come from the exact same source yielding aircraft that will be identical whether assembled in Italy or Texas.

Headquarters for the Bell/Agusta Aerospace Company is located at Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, Texas. BA 609 customer training will be conducted at this location, which will also serve as a delivery center. The BA609 will cruise at 275 knots with a maximum unrefueled range of 750 nautical miles, 1,000 nautical miles with auxiliary fuel tanks. The aircraft in standard configuration is fully pressurized and de-iced.

Bell Helicopter Textron is a $1.6 billion, leading producer of commercial and military helicopters, and the pioneer of the revolutionary tiltrotor aircraft. Globally recognized for customer service, innovation and superior quality, Bell's global workforce of over 7,500 employees serves customers flying Bell aircraft in over 120 countries. Bell Helicopter is a subsidiary of Textron Inc., an $11 billion multi-industry company with 49,000 employees in 40 countries.

AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica and GKN Company, with primary operations in Cascina Costa, Italy, and Yeovil, United Kingdom, is a commercial enterprise, offering an unrivaled range of products designed to satisfy the most diverse requirements of civil and military customers. With turnover in 2001 exceeding $2.5 billion, AgustaWestland is committed to delivering outstanding products and services in globally competitive markets. World's First Commercial Tiltrotor Completes Ground Runs and Taxi Test Activity in Texas