The First Civilian Airplane-helicopter Hybrid Could Soon Go Into Production
A new aircraft like you’ve never seen before could soon take over the skies — and it could save lives in the process.
Tilt-rotor aircraft, which have long been used by the military, may soon go into commercial production. The civilian-ready aircraft could be used by both business people looking to get to meetings faster and by life-saving medics hoping to transport both patients and organs faster than ever before, CNN reported.
The aircraft, CNN explained, can hover like a helicopter, but fly further and faster like an airplane. It will come with two engines that can swivel up or down to either hover or propel forward. And, perhaps best of all, those flying in it won’t be required to land at an airport and can instead land wherever there’s a helipad available.
Those first civilian tilt-rotor aircraft, known as the AW609, are currently being built in the United States by the Italian aerospace company Leonardo, CNN reported. It expects the AW609 to gain Federal Aviation Administration certification by the end of this year and enter service in 2020.
"The 609 represents, from a technological point of view, a breakthrough," Gian Piero Cutillo, managing director of Leonardo Helicopters, told CNN of the aircraft that will fit up to nine passengers and two crew members.
Though the 609 sounds cool regulators will certainly be keeping a close eye on it, especially after a test flight crashed and killed two pilots in 2015, Vertical Magazine reported.
"Regulators are going to look very closely at this aircraft in light of the developmental difficulties, both for the 609 and its V-22 cousin," Richard Aboulafia, aviation industry analyst at Teal Group, told CNN. "But they're certainly not going to certify a product that isn't safe."
The aircraft may also prove too important not to push forward. As CNN noted, the plane could be used by both search-and-rescue teams as well as paramedics to transport people and organs to different hospitals at record speed. And, since they can land quickly and safely on helipads the new plane could prove to be revolutionary.
However, the new model won’t come cheap. In fact, it will set a buyer back about $25 million. As of now, there are just a few orders, including the first U.S. customer, Texas-based Era Group. But, there may be more orders in the future as the company is also developing a larger model as a passenger aircraft that can seat up to 25 people. According to Cutillo, that model may be available as soon as 2023.