Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Civilian Tilt Rotor Baggage

The Bell/Agusta BA609 civil tiltrotor has been in the works for a over 10 years, as reported by an August, 2007 article in Aviation International News (AIN) called "As time passes, operators question BA609 appeal". That article goes on to relate the diminishing interest by potential buyers of the craft. A more recent article in 2008 by Aero News Net, titled "BA609 Tiltrotor Makes Its First Appearance At Show", further confirms this by saying "but officials at the American helicopter manufacturer [Bell] have recently signalled the market they once saw for the aircraft has declined significantly in today's economic conditions."

From our perspective, an airplane that can take off and land vertically like a helicopter and also fly as fast and with the same ease as a fixed wing aircraft is the ideal. So, why are people losing interest in the BA609? The primary reason is cost: almost $20,000,000 for a plane that carries eight or nine passengers. With that kind of money, one could buy several helicopters or about five very light jets (VLJs). Other issues quoted by the AIN article are: that the craft is "too big for use on standard helipads and yet too small for comfortable executive charter." Given the already existing helipads in major cities, oil rigs, company campuses, hospitals and private homes, an vertical flight airplane must be able to use them, or it will require an set of such landing pads of its own.

We've already talked before about the inherent weaknesses of a tilt rotor design. That technology is not the most efficient and most reliable way to add vertical flight capability to an airplane. The lack of efficiency and the potential safety problems is what has swollen the cost of the BA609 to far more than any of the competing aviation modes: helicopter or fixed wing plane. We think it just is not possible to build a tilt rotor vertical take off and landing (VTOL) craft without spending money on redundant computer systems and other complexities, thereby inflating the cost considerably.

We do offer an alternative: our Arc Wing VTOL airplane. By using deflected slipstream technology, which we think is the most efficient (the most elegant, really) approach to vertical flight, our craft will cost about the same as a VLJ and will be far more inherently safe than a tilt rotor craft (or even helicopters) due to the simplicity and aerodynamic qualities of the design. We invited all those interested in the best possible VTOL airplane to look into our proposal. The Arc Wing VTOL can be scaled from four passengers to far more. The smaller ones will easily work with existing helipads. The larger craft will have to be accommodated as per their size. In all cases, the cost will be similar to turbine fixed wing planes of corresponding size.

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