The idea of a flying machine that will take off and land vertically, then achieve airplane speeds, has been around since the development of engine-driven aircraft. Several designs have been toyed with, but arguably the most successful have fallen into one of two categories: a hybrid using a main rotor and propellers, or vectored thrust (i.e., a tilting rotor). In 2012, I conducted an evaluation flight of the Eurocopter (now Airbus) X3 experimental aircraft, which uses the hybrid system. So, it was only fitting that I accept AgustaWestland’s offer to fly the AW609 tiltrotor, which employs vectored thrust. The 609 actually began life in 1998 as a Bell-Boeingproject, and later became the Bell/Agusta Aerospace BA609. But in 2011, when Bell Helicopter officially pulled out of the partnership, the rebranded “AW609 tiltrotor” was placed under the control of the newly formedAgustaWestland Tilt-Rotor Company (AWTRC) of Arlington, Texas, a wholly-owned subsidiary of AgustaWestland.
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