Bell Helicopter officials told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this week that the civilian market for the Bell BA609 Tiltrotor is disappearing as more capable helicopters and $2 million very light jets take center stage.
The lead on the project has been shifted to program partner AugustaWestland in Italy. The military counterpart is the V-22 Osprey. A mock-up of the combination airplane and helicopter has occupied space each year on the exhibit floor of the National Business Aviation Association’s annual convention.
As early as 1984 then-Bell President Jack Horner was reaching out to the media to promote the idea of a civilian Tiltrotor. His company was displaying huge blades for the project at its Fort Worth headquarters.
The craft takes off like a rotorcraft and tilts is rotors forward to fly like an airplane. It reportedly has high maintenance and fuel costs. In addition, city officials in the United States, unlike enthusiastic counterparts in Europe, have soured on the idea of large Tiltrotors flying in congested city centers.
It marks the first time that a company has cited the popular very light jet segment as a threat to other forms of transportation.