Bristow Group, the global leader in vertical lift solutions and launch customer for the AW609 Tiltrotor in the United States, participated in a demonstration flight in Philadelphia on May 11. Bryan Willows, Bristow Program Manager for Advanced Air Mobility, an aviator who previously flew the MV-22 Osprey for the U.S. Marine Corps, piloted the aircraft.
Throughout the sixty-minute flight, Willows experienced firsthand the unique characteristics of the world’s first tiltrotor set to receive civil certification. He spent two days at Leonardo Helicopters’ United States headquarters in Philadelphia, where he spent the first part of his visit undergoing ground training, including advanced flight simulation, before moving onto fly the real aircraft. “Flying the AW609 for the first time was an exciting experience and important milestone for me,” said Willows. “The AW609 is an important aircraft as Bristow helps advance vertical flight technology just like we have for the past 70+ years.”
This inaugural flight marks an important milestone for Leonardo and Bristow Group as they collaborate to introduce the AW609 aircraft into service. The AW609 is designed to perform various missions, including VIP/passenger transport, offshore/utility, emergency medical services (EMS), and search and rescue (SAR). The first Bristow aircraft is in the final stages of production on the new AW609 final assembly line in Philadelphia. Together, they are working to define mission capabilities, assessing concepts of operations, regulations, maintenance, configuration optimization and possible areas of enhancement or modifications. Combining industrial and engineering capabilities with operational and market experience and analysis, this mutually beneficial partnership is maximizing the potential of the AW609.
Bristow and Leonardo have a history dating back 25 years, with Bristow flying the AW119 single engine, AW109 light twin, AW139 intermediate twin, and the AW189 super medium. Bristow’s fleet of Leonardo helicopters includes 90 aircraft, today carrying out offshore transport, SAR, and EMS flights across North and South America, Europe, and Africa.
The AW609 will revolutionize air transport thanks to its rotorcraft-like versatility and airplane-like performance. The AW609 excels at providing fast point-to-point transportation at long ranges, whether connecting city centres or providing timely access to remote locations. It can transport up to nine passengers in the comfort of a pressurized cabin, transforming private and business travel, EMS, SAR, offshore operations and patrol, serving those in both the private and government sectors.
To date, the program has logged more than 1,700 flight hours in U.S. and Italy. Users will be provided with comprehensive support and training packages, primarily headquartered at Leonardo’s new Training Academy in Philadelphia. Opened in 2021, it is home to the world’s first AW609 full-flight Simulator.
The continuous development of cutting-edge solutions across all domains, including fast rotorcraft and modern air mobility, is a key element of Leonardo’s BeTomorrow2030 Strategic Plan.