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FrontFunners: Private Blend

Private helicopter/airplane hybrids are winging our way. As of December, fliers had placed 65 orders for the two-pilot, nine-passenger BA609 Tiltrotor from Bell/Agusta Aerospace Co. (www.bellagusta.com). The aircraft takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter but flies like an airplane at about 317 mph, twice the speed of traditional helicopters of the same size. The aircraft, which will require no more than a 60-by-60-foot space to lift off and touch down, will fly to 25,000 feet and have a range of about 860 miles. The company expects to deliver the first Tiltrotor in 2010, at a price of $16 million or less. Tiltrotor pilots will need both airplane and helicopter certifications, as well as an additional tiltrotor-type rating.

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