The American V22 was the first tilt-rotor transport to enter service and now there is another; the AW609 from European helicopter maker AgustaWestland. The most interesting aspect of this is that these two aircraft are not exactly competing for sales. The 27 ton V22 was built largely for a military market while the smaller 8 ton AW609 is aimed at non-military customers.
The first AW609 will enter service in 2019, twelve years after the V22. So far there are sixty orders for the AW609 and there is some talk of using the AW609 to carry out medical evacuation missions and commando operations. The high speed of the AW609 and V22 and their ability to land and take off like a helicopter while being able to move people or cargo at the speed of a turboprop is a major plus in many situations. So far some 200 V22s have been built and about as many are on order. Current cost per V22 is about $90 million. The AW609 is expected to cost about $20 million.
Since it entered service in 2007, V22s have flown over 160,000 hours. The V22 cruises at 445 kilometers an hour and its endurance is about 3.5 hours per sortie. The V22 can carry up to 32 troops or nine tons of cargo. The AW609 cruises at 480 kilometers an hour, can carry up to ten (one pilot and nine passengers) or two pilots and 2.5 tons of cargo. Endurance is about 2.5 hours.
While users of the V22 are happy with their unique hybrid, the accountants are less pleased. Since 2009, users have been struggling to increase V22 readiness (ready for action) rate from 50-60 percent to the 82 percent that the manufacturer had promised. The problem is that, despite being a wonderful feat of engineering that is now proved itself capable of serving in a combat zone, the V22 is mechanically very complex and expensive, as well as being difficult to keep operational. The V22 has had lots of trouble with costs and reliability. The AW609 is expected to have learned from many of the problems the V22 encountered in this area and will also take advantage of commercial users do not operate in the harsher environment of combat.
Since the V22 entered service the estimated lifetime cost of operating the aircraft has increased 64 percent to $121.5 billion. Although the major user (the U.S. Marine Corps) has had an excellent safety and reliability record, the V22s are very expensive compared to the helicopters they replaced. This is especially true when it comes to operating and maintenance expenses.