It's a helicopter. It's plane. The AgustaWestland AW609 Tiltrotor is both, and it won't be available until 2016. But among those on its waiting list is helicopter enthusiast and New York City major Michael Bloomberg.
The New York Times reports Bloomberg, who already owns a $4.5 million copter through his company, is an avid fan of flying in them for both business and pleasure. For example:
On the morning of March 16, a thick fog shrouded the city, causing huge delays at La Guardia Airport, where the mayor and several lawmakers were waiting to travel to Albany for a news conference on state pension reform. So Mr. Bloomberg offered to fly his guests, who included James P. Molinaro, the Staten Island borough president; Thomas M. Roach, the mayor of White Plains; a mayoral aide, Micah C. Lasher; and a security officer, in his helicopter instead.
As the mayor took the controls and steered north, he pointed out the Catskills and asked his passengers if they felt airsick. Mr. Molinaro, who previously flew Navy helicopters, said he was impressed with the mayor’s skills, especially during the landing.
“He came down nice and slow,” Mr. Molinaro said. “It was like you were just sliding. There wasn’t even a bounce.”
Bloomberg's passion for piloting is relatively well-known, although he did decline an interview with the Times for its article.
According to the New York Times, the Tiltortor coveted by Bloomberg and others on the "ultra-exclusive" waiting list doesn't have a list price yet but reports are it cost between $5 million and $30 million. Gizmag reported earlier this year that the AgustaWestland AW609 began development in 1996 with several prototypes coming out within the decade and a half that followed. Gizmag has more details:
The AW609 is designed to fly with a crew of one or two and accommodate six to nine passengers. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67A turboshaft engines, each delivering 1,940 hp (1,447 kW), the AW609 boasts a range of 700 nautical miles (805 miles, 1,296 km).
AgustaWestland is aiming to receive FAA certification for the AW609 in the first half of 2016 with deliveries set to begin immediately after. The company says it has already received orders for around 70 of the aircraft to perform a range of commercial and government roles. AgustaWestland says the AW609's capabilities make it ideal for applications such as emergency medical services (EMS), search and rescue (SAR), transport for "deepwater" oil and gas facilities, and transporting VIPs and Heads of State to and from congested urban areas inaccessible for fixed wing aircraft.
AgustaWestland describes the tiltorotor, which can takeoff and land vertically, as combining the benefits of a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft.
The aircraft is similar in concept to the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, which was one of the first designed as a helicopter/airplane hybrid. The Osprey is designed to meet military needs, whereas the Tiltrotor could have recreational use.
Check out this Aero Network TV report on the copter/plane from a few years ago:
You can get a closer look of the equipment below:
The Times reports fiction writer Patricia Cornwell, who flies copters as well and has discussed them with the mayor, as saying, “You take someone like the mayor, this is a really handy thing. It’s a bird’s-eye view of America from your cockpit.”
Read more details about Bloomberg's interest in piloting helicopters in the Times' article here.