Airplane-Helicopter Hybrid May Soon Be Available for Private Aviation

When the V-22 Osprey “tiltroter” aircraft was first put into service by the US Marine Corp in 2007 it was a revolution in military aviation. The Osprey delivered on the long saught after miliaty aircraft that could “take of and land like a helicopter, but fly as fast as an airplane.”

Now, such a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft – or helicopter/airplane hybrid – may soon me winging its way into the private aviation space.

According to CNN, a  civillain version of the Osprey is now being built by Italian aerospace company Leonardo. The AW609 is the world’s first civilian production tiltrotor and has been designed to operate in the executive and private avation space as a private passenger aircraft.

CNN also said that Billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he wants one. An executive like Bloomberg could board a tiltrotor near his home and fly at speeds higher than 300 mph to a meeting a thousand miles away. About three hours later, it could land on a helipad at the meeting location. No airports required.

Accoring to CNN, Leonardo will start building the first AW609 production model in early May, at its factory in Philadelphia. If all goes as planned, the AW609 will gain Federal Aviation Administration certification by the end of this year and enter service sometime in 2020.

"The 609 represents, from a technological point of view, a breakthrough," Gian Piero Cutillo, managing director of Leonardo Helicopters, told CNN at last month's Helicopter Association International trade show in Atlanta.

Civilain Tiltrotors Beyond Private Aviation

While Leonardo says the 690 will make an ideal business aircraft, a civialin tiltrotor could have many uses beyond private aviation.

For example, they could pick up a donor heart from a hospital helipad and quickly fly it directly to another hospital more than 1,000 miles away, avoiding airports altogether.

In addition they could prove invlaulbe in search and rescue operations. A low-flying search plane can spot people on the ground, but those people must then wait for a chopper to transport them to safety. A tiltrotor aircraft could save time -- and, potentially, lives -- by doing both - flying long-distance search grids and then hovering and hoisting people up from the ground.

One of the main differences between the AW609 and the military’s Osprey, is that the world's first production tiltrotor aircraft, the AW609 has a pressurized cabin, allowing it to fly as high as 25,000 feet, which is comfortably above any bad weather, making it ideal for business and private aviation applications.

According to CNN, the first US customer will be the Texas-based Era Group, which is expected to take delivery of two AW609s next year. The deal includes a dedicated training package for intensive flight instruction at Leonardo's new tilt-rotor academy in Philadelphia.

The Future of Private Aviation Today

In the last year or so, we have seen radical new changes in the design of private aircraft, such as the groundbreaking AW609. But did you realize that just as much innovation is taking place on the ground, as in the air?

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