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AW609 tiltrotor prototype crashes during test flight

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AW609 tiltrotor prototype crashes during test flight

Old 30th Oct 2015, 11:51
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AW609 tiltrotor prototype crashes during test flight

According to preliminary news reports, an AW609 tiltrotor prototype crashed during a test flight. The accident occurred at around 10am (local time) in field between Santhià and Tronzano (Piedmont region, NW Italy). The aircraft had taken off from the AW facility in Vergiate.
According to the news, both pilots sadly lost their lives.

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Old 30th Oct 2015, 12:01
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Tragic! What more can be said?
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Old 30th Oct 2015, 12:18
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Test Flying has always been an occupation that carried a lot of risk with it no matter how carefully the Test Program was structured and carried out.

Condolences to all....as having worked for Agusta in the past at that facility and knowing what a wonderful group of dedicated Aviation professionals are there, it does sadden the Heart to hear such news.
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Old 30th Oct 2015, 12:34
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Very, very sad. I was at the RAeS Cierva lecture on Tuesday, listening to the AW609 Programme Director talking about it, and the future, with huge enthusiasm. I also know the British TP normally based in Arlington and hope he was not in this crew.
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Old 30th Oct 2015, 13:48
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Names of Test Pilots involved in the crash were released.
One Italian and a US National, knew them both, God has them in His embrace.
Very sad day.
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Old 30th Oct 2015, 14:01
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Deepest sympathies to the families, friends, and colleagues of the two pilots. Pietro's dedication and long standing involvement in the program is second to none. Both will be missed...
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Old 30th Oct 2015, 14:27
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Just heard the second pilot was H.M. A great person and outstanding pilot. The program will go on and succeed, but the loss of these two today is absolutely devastating to all involved.
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Old 30th Oct 2015, 14:41
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Spent time with Herb in Athens and Paris some years ago. What a great and humble guy.

I was hoping he would not be in the aircraft
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Old 30th Oct 2015, 14:44
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Sincere condolences to all related and all involved in program.
Let's hope that this tragic loss can lead to better safety and technology....
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Old 30th Oct 2015, 15:00
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Vertical reports that according to local media reports the aircraft was on fire as it crashed.

AW609 prototype crashes; both pilots killed | Vertical Magazine - The Pulse of the Helicopter Industry

Here is the Google translation of the La Stampa article referenced form the OP:

A roar followed by a crash to the ground in the fields between Santhià and Tronzano: many in this morning saw the explosion in flight of military tiltrotor experimental Agusta Westland, hybrid of airplane and helicopter started from the basis of Vergiate, in the province of Varese.

The fear that the aircraft could fall over the area of ​​Santhià (the first houses from the crash site three hundred meters away) was great, but just the readiness of the two airmen on board has avoided the bloodbath them, Pietro Venanzi, 53 , pilot Agusta Westland and Herbert Moran, a former Navy pilot Oregon native American but lives in Varese, died on the spot but by their courage and with a final maneuver capable of bringing the media into a peripheral area, avoided a massacre.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor of Vercelli has opened an investigation for manslaughter and aviatorio disaster, as well as the ANSV, the national agency for flight safety, opened an investigation and sent an own investigative team.

Witnesses tell of seeing him lean before catching fire. It was not the first test carried out over the skies of Vercelli. "It was flying low over the houses and it was on fire - told a group of students -. The pilot did well to take him up on the corn fields. If he fell in the city, it would be a massacre. "

"We have just learned that one of our prototype test fell - said this morning the CEO of Finmeccanica, Mauro Moretti, during his speech at the conference organized at Expo -. This does not have to stop in research and innovation. "

Last edited by Hot and Hi; 30th Oct 2015 at 15:18.
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Old 30th Oct 2015, 21:38
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Very sad news indeed.
The long lasting dedication to the AW609 program of Pietro made him the lead specialist in this area.
May both RIP
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Old 2nd Nov 2015, 00:30
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Meanwhile, the prosecutor of Vercelli has opened an investigation for manslaughter and aviatorio disaster.........
I don't have a knowledge of Italian law but it seems a bit unusual that a criminal investigation is opened before there is even any preliminary accident findings from civil aviation authorities.

I recall a somewhat similar situation in 1994 when F1 race driver Ayrton Senna was killed in a crash during the San Marino GP. A couple members of the Williams race team were charged with negligent manslaughter and tried in absentia by Italian prosecutors. It took several years to complete the legal process.

While it's tragic that the two test pilots lost their lives, a criminal case will likely take far longer to complete than a crash investigation by civil aviation authorities. So this could end up having a big effect on the AW609 certification efforts.
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Old 2nd Nov 2015, 13:34
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That is standard practice in Italy and is the first step in the investigation.

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Old 2nd Nov 2015, 15:46
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Mr. Herb Moran

Just became aware of Mr. Herb Moran being one of the test pilots onboard the AW609. I had enjoyed several beers after work with him while at PAX discussing design attributes and issues of the H-1 Upgrades rotors. He was a great test pilot and fine human being! I too was hoping he was not in that aircraft. RIP.
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Old 4th Nov 2015, 17:44
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@ Rif Raf

In Italy it is usual for the prosecutor to open an investigation for manslaughter and aviation disaster...the rules goes in that direction to give the investigators all the power to inspect they need.

On there other hand we are talking about Roman Law Code merged with Cristian Church for whom misconduct, fraud and negligence are embedded in the human conduct and guiltiness must be fund.

P.S.: Sorry...just posted unaware of Sultan's answer.
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Old 9th Nov 2015, 21:36
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AgustaWestland: AW609 was performing high-speed tests on day of crash
by Oliver Johnson

Manufacturer AgustaWestland has disclosed that the AW609 prototype that crashed in Northern Italy had a flight plan that included tests at high speed. AgustaWestland Photo

The AgustaWestland AW609 prototype that crashed in Northern Italy on Oct. 30, killing test pilots Herb Moran and Pietro Venanzi, was undertaking a flight plan that included tests at high speed, the manufacturer has confirmed. In announcing further details about the fatal accident, AgustaWestland said the tests on the flight plan were to demonstrate certain capabilities as agreed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) — and had already been successfully performed in previous flights.

The aircraft involved in the accident was prototype number two, registration N609AG. It had been assembled in Italy and performed its first flight on Nov. 9, 2006. It had accumulated 567 flight hours since then, and was due to complete its test flying program at the end of 2016.

AgustaWestland said that the aircraft proved fully serviceable during its pre-flight tests on the morning of the crash — and added that these tests were completed shortly ahead of takeoff and were performed in full compliance with the inspection plan authorized by the relevant aviation and certification authorities. The aircraft departed from the manufacturer’s headquarters in Cascina Costa di Samarate (Varese), Italy, at 10:15 a.m. local time.

Test pilots Pietro Venanzi and Herb Moran died when the AW609 prototype crashed in Northern Italy on Oct. 30. AgustaWestland Photo

At 10:42 a.m. local time, 27 minutes after takeoff, the aircraft’s real-time telemetry signal was lost with no further contact. Its wreckage was subsequently found near Santhia (close to Vercelli), approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Cascina Costa.

The manufacturer said it was supporting a full and transparent investigation into the crash, which is being led by the Italian National Agency for the Safety of Flight (ANSV), but said formulating any theory on the possible causes of the accident was “absolutely premature” while the investigation continues. As the aircraft was registered in the United States and was operating under FAA regulations, both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are involved in the investigation. Other investigating authorities include the Prosecutor’s Office of Vercelli (Italy), the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

With regards to the AW609 program’s future, AgustaWestland said it was “fully committed to mitigating any delay this tragic accident, and the subsequent investigation, might have” on the program. The third AW609 prototype is currently being assembled in Italy and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Pilot details released

Venanzi had worked as an experimental test pilot with AgustaWestland for the last 15 years, and had returned to Italy following time spent in support of the AW609 program in Texas. He also played a significant role in the testing and development of the AW139.

His achievements in flight testing were recognized in 2014, when, along with fellow AW609 pilots Dan Wells and Paul Edwards, he was awarded with the Iven C. Kincheloe Award for an outstanding professional accomplishments in the conduct of flight-testing.

Prior to joining AgustaWestland, Venanzi was the Aide de Campe for the Chief of Joint Military Staff of the Italian Armed Forces, and had a six-year career at the Italian Official Test Centre in Pratica di Mare, Italy. While there, he worked on several test programs in both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. He was also a display pilot at many prestigious air shows including the Royal International Air Tattoo, where he won the Sir Douglas Bader Trophy for flying the overall best air display.

Moran was an experimental test pilot with over 27 years of military and commercial aviation experience, and had been dedicated to flight-testing of the commercial TilRrotor for over 10 years. He began his work on the Bell/Agusta BA609 in 2005 as part of the TiltRotor development team in both Texas and Italy.

Prior to joining Bell, and then subsequently, AgustaWestland, Moran had a storied career in the U.S. Marine Corps, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He served in operational and instructor tours in the Bell UH-1 Iroquois and Bell AH-1 Cobra, and was presented with the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat Valor as a result of his overseas deployment in support of Desert Storm. His military service culminated with duties as Platform Coordinator for the UH-1N Test Team and then Operations Officer at the Naval Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron. Moran was instrumental in the development and flight-testing of a number of military test projects and helicopter platform upgrades during his military career.

Moran flew 35 different military and commercial aircraft variants across rotary-wing, TiltRotor, jet and turboprop platforms, and maintained both FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency pilot certifications. Prior to his work on the BA and AW609, he was Bell Helicopter’s lead pilot of a five-aircraft development team of the UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper. In 2002, his accomplishments were recognized industry-wide when the Society for Experimental Test Pilots selected him as the recipient of the Iven C Kincheloe Test Pilot of the Year award.

"Our thoughts are with their families and friends," said Daniele Romiti, CEO of AgustaWestland, “Pietro and Herb were experienced pilots with long and successful test flying careers who will be remembered for their exceptional personalities, passion and skills,” he said. “Their significant contribution to the AW609 programme and other rotorcraft programmes will be remembered by their colleagues at AgustaWestland and across the industry worldwide.”
AgustaWestland: AW609 was performing high-speed tests on day of crash | Vertical Magazine - The Pulse of the Helicopter Industry
Some additional info.

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Old 9th Nov 2015, 21:53
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Interestingly enough, the radar track of the day's incident has been removed from flightradar 24

N609AG - Aircraft info and flight history - Flightradar24

At the time, I do recall stepping though the logs, and I do not recall ever seeing a return over 140-150kt. Perhaps the test card for the day intended to complete high speed points, but I think the headline might be a bit misleading as it implies a potential causation.
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Old 9th Nov 2015, 23:25
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The article stated the purpose of the test not where they were on the card. It did state they had been to high speed many times. I know Ship 1 has been faster with no issues being found with the design.

Of note: Today at their base in Arlinton, Tx Agusta held a candle light memorial to remember Pietro and Herb with the previous Bell 609 team being invited.

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Old 10th Nov 2015, 01:03
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Perhaps the test card for the day intended to complete high speed points
Apparently the aircraft was scheduled to perform high-speed testing at the time of the crash.

AW609 Crashed During High-speed Testing | Business Aviation News: Aviation International News
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