This helicopter-airplane hybrid could take flight for civilians as early as 2020—take a look


Hypersonic aircraft might come in "20 to 30 years" but another innovation in the sky may fly sooner — and it will be available to the public.

The tiltrotor aircraft, a hybrid of an airplane and a helicopter used by the military (the Pentagon has one), is now being built for civilians use by Italian aerospace company Leonardo. The AW609 is the world's first civilian production tiltrotor and is intended for executive and private transport as a passenger aircraft, according to CNN.

The site reports it will cost about $25 million for a company to buy the aircraft.

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg was on the waiting list for a tiltrotor aircraft back in 2012, according to The New York Times.


The AW609 can take off vertically like a helicopter, hover and accelerate up, but it can also fly thanks to turboprop propeller engines on the end of each wing, according to CNN, and do so farther and faster. 

It can go up to 316 miles per hour, and it's capable of flying at 25,000 feet with a pressurized cabin. That high, the aircraft can dodge bad weather conditions, according to Leonardo.


It has a 5-foot high aisle, a "refreshment center" and a bathroom. It can seat nine passengers and two crew members.


A representative for Leonardo tells CNBC Make It the company hopes to gain Federal Aviation Administration certification by the end of 2019, and if approved, the model could then hit the skies in 2020.

However, an AW609 prototype crashed during a flight test in 2015, killing two pilots, according to CNN. "Regulators are going to look very closely at this aircraft in light of the developmental difficulties," Richard Aboulafia, aviation industry analyst of Teal Group, an aerospace and defense consulting company, told CNN, "but they're certainly not going to certify a product that isn't safe." (Leonardo did not respond to CNBC Make It's request for comment on the incident.)

Once it's approved, Era Group, a helicopter service company based in Texas, will be the first U.S. customer, according to Leonardo. The company is buying two AW609s and is one the largest helicopter operators in the world, according to its website.


Leonardo says the craft may also appeal to non-executive/public transport companies, like for search and rescue (SAR) and emergency medical services (EMS) missions, because with its speed, the AW609 can offer improved response times and coverage areas, the company says. 

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