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Commercial variant of V-280 tiltrotor possible in 2030s, says Bell CEO

PARIS — A civil variant of the V-280 Valor tiltrotor could be flying “in the 2030s timeframe”, Bell CEO Lisa Atherton told reporters at the Paris Air Show on Tuesday.

“It won’t be immediate, right? I mean, you still have to get through the FAA. … And from a civil perspective, we’ll have to work to see what the price point looks like and what kind of customer base is out there. But I absolutely believe that you’ll see civil tiltrotors out there in the future,” she said.

The U.S. Army selected Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor as its Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft in December 2022. The award was protested by rival bidder Lockheed Martin Sikorsky, but the Government Accountability Office denied its protest in April, clearing Bell to proceed with the program that could have a total value of $70 billion.

It wouldn’t be Bell’s first attempt at a civil tiltrotor. Bell and Boeing struck a partnership to develop a civil tiltrotor in 1996; after Boeing pulled out of the project, Bell continued development of what was then the BA609 with Italian helicopter manufacturer Agusta. AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) announced at the 2011 Paris Air Show that it was assuming full ownership of the program, which it renamed the AW609. That aircraft is still awaiting FAA certification.

“I’m cheering the 609 on, you know, with all my might,” Atherton said. “They’re a much smaller platform, but I think certainly complementary; obviously, we’re bigger. I love that they’re plowing the ground for us with the FAA. … As they get through that, we understand what the certification requirements are, we get through manufacturing of [the V-280] and then you could see, just like the 412 is a commercial variant of our Huey platforms of the past, you could start seeing the two feed each other in the future.”

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