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Eurocopter X3 hybrid helicopter hits 232 knots


May 18, 2011

Eurocopter's X3 demonstrator has exceeded its initial speed target of 220 knots (Image: Patrick Penna)

Eurocopter's X3 demonstrator has exceeded its initial speed target of 220 knots (Image: Patrick Penna)

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After undergoing a planned upgrade to its gearbox that enabled it to operate at full engine power, Eurocopter's X3 hybrid helicopter demonstrator has surpassed its original speed target of 220 knots (407 km/h or 253 mph). In a flight on May 12, the X3 maintained a true airspeed of 232 knots (430 km/h or 267 mph) for several minutes during stable, level flight.

Equipped with two turboshaft engines powering a five-blade main rotor system and two propellers on short-span fixed wings, the X3 demonstrator combines the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and hover capabilities of a helicopter with the fast cruise speeds of a turboprop-powered aircraft.

Flight testing of the X3 demonstrator began in September 2010, with the aircraft achieving its initial true airspeed goal of 180 knots (333 km/h or 207 mph) in November when operating at a reduced level of engine power. After an upgrade that integrated its definitive gearboxes to enable it to operate at full power, the aircraft returned to flight testing last week at the DGA Flight Test Center in Istres, France, and achieved the 232 knot milestone on only its third mission.

"We were impressed by the ease at which this speed objective was attained," said flight test engineer Daniel Semioli and test pilot Hervé Jammayrac, who were aboard the aircraft for the May 12 flight. "The X3 handles extremely well, demonstrating remarkable stability at high speed - even with the autopilot off."

In the latest flight tests conducted at full engine power, Eurocopter says the X3 demonstrated "impressive climb and descent rates, as well as excellent maneuverability, while also confirming the hybrid propulsion system's outstanding capabilities for acceleration and deceleration."

Eurocopter says the flight tests to date have also validated the X3's basic handling characteristics and confirmed the aircraft's low vibration levels and ability to provide flight characteristics comparable to the best traditional design helicopters currently in service - all without the use of passive or active anti-vibration systems and without the need of a stability augmentation system.

The company envisions the X3 being utilized in a wide range of applications, including long-distance search and rescue (SAR) missions, coast guard duties, border patrol missions, passenger transport and inter-city shuttle services. It also says the aircraft could be tailored for military applications such as special forces operations, troop transport, combat SAR and medical evacuation.

Eurocopter's X3 flight test program is set to continue throughout 2011.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Come on guys, when the winchman goes out the heli is almost always stationary. This means the props are stopped !


Cannot say I would look forward to being a winch man on this helicopter with those blades spinning in the forward - doesnt seem to leave much room. Interesting to see where they would locate the winch and understand the actual space.


While it may be mechanically simpler, the V-22 Osprey is faster, and would appear to be safer for a winch man.


myale, I see your point would that be slice and dice? The V-22 is a very complex machine, the x-3 just needs to have the doors move further aft ehh Slowburn?

Bill Bennett

AussieJohn --- The X3\'s single main rotor design, with the short distance between the anti-toque rotors, and the center of the main rotor probably requires thrust from both small propellers to maintain a stable hover.

Bill Bennett --- Single main rotor helicopters are sensitive to out of balance loads, so the farther the winch is away from the center of the main rotor, the less weight it can be used to lift. A non-folding for storage tilt-rotor would be less complex than the V-22.


While I like the Osprey, it is much more complex design and I would think it would require more training for the pilots than the X2 and X3. The question for this design (and the X2) is once they announce pricing will organizations with helicopters and small planes see this as the best of both worlds and buy them? I think the military and the coast guard will be quick to start buying them. They offer a level of flexibility helicopters and small aircraft cannot provide. I do not see their true impact happening until they start building medium size versions. Something that could make the Balckhawk obsolete....


Perhaps this plane is able ,to "auto giro" itself to safety, when the main rotor motor is out of order, and stay in the air on the propulsion rotors. That would be interesting for extra safety. The helicopter could even fly home with a broken main motor , with idling roter ,like this over hundredths of miles. It would then need to land, with speed on a runway however..For this occasion just for emergency. Something to test?


Obviously the Sikorsky X-2 is a far superior design to the Eurocopter X-3. It offers a much better platform that can be developed into a medium and heavy lift designs.

Al Summers
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