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Eurocopter’s X3 hybrid helicopter demonstrator reaches 180 knot milestone

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December 12, 2010

The Eurocopter X3 demonstrator test flight (Image: Patrick Penna)

The Eurocopter X3 demonstrator test flight (Image: Patrick Penna)

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Eurocopter is reporting a new breakthrough in the test flight program for its X3 high-speed, long-range Hybrid Helicopter demonstrator. The aircraft is equipped with two turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system and two propellers installed on short-span fixed wings, combining the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities and full hover flight capabilities of a helicopter with the fast cruise speeds of a turboprop-powered aircraft. On November 29, the X3 reached the program’s Step 1 speed objective by attaining a true airspeed of 180 knots (333 km/h or 207 mph) in level flight at a reduced engine power level.

The X3 demonstrator’s maiden flight took place on September 6, 2010 in Southern France at the Istres Center of “DGA Flight Testing”, and since then the basic hybrid demonstrator aircraft’s stability and handling has been tested both with and without autopilot. It has reached an altitude of 12,500 feet (3,810 m) and performed maneuvers with left and right turns at bank angles of up to 60 degrees. With initial testing operating on reduced power, the flight envelope was progressively opened to achieve the 180 knot milestone.

The X3 has performed extremely well, demonstrating handling and flight qualities that are exactly in line with our ground-based simulator evaluations,” said Eurocopter test pilot Hervé Jammayrac. “This helicopter is really built for speed, and our test team looks forward to taking the X3 to the next steps of its flight regime.”

The Eurocopter X3 demonstrator test flight (Image: Patrick Penna)

After a three-month upgrade the X3 is set to enter a second set of flight tests in March 2011, with the goal of reaching sustained cruise speeds in excess of 220 knots (407 km/h or 253 mph) – which, it should be noted, still falls short of the 250 knots (463 km/h or 287.69 mph) record achieved by Sikorsky Aircraft’s coaxial X2 Technology demonstrator in September this year.

The X3 is built around a Eurocopter Dauphin helicopter frame and is designed to suit a wide range of applications, including long-distance search and rescue (SAR) missions, coast guard duties, border patrol missions, passenger transportation and inter-city shuttle services. Eurocopter says it could also be well-tailored for military missions in Special Force’s operations, troop transportation, combat SAR and medical evacuation.

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
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10 Comments

This would work better with a NOTAR helicopter. Because the props are also the anti-torque the inability to shut down the propellers in flight will make it too dangerous to perform aerial winch rescues and loading/unloading on the ground with the props turning wouldn't be possible - looks like a cheaper & simpler approach to pratical high-speed VTOL than V-22 or BA-609, but the Sikorsky X-2 still kicks its ass.

PeetEngineer
13th December, 2010 @ 08:54 am PST

I agree with some of the sentiments of the Peetengineer, but since the props are an "add on" system it will allow them to get these helicopters into production a lot faster than Sikorsky's X2, at a lower cost.

I like the Osprey, but lets face it, it is a complicated, expensive system. The U.S. Marines would not have funded it if there was anything else out there that could have done the job.

I find it funny that both the X2 and X3 are coming online after the Ospreys success.

They could have built something like this decades ago....

On a positive note, once these systems start appearing on medium and large helicopters I think they will radically enhance military fighting range and in-field supply

On the civilian side I think they have the ability to replace small aircraft for city to city transport.

Dennis

www.PrometheusGoneWild.com

PrometheusGoneWild.com
13th December, 2010 @ 12:36 pm PST

DOes any one on this site remember the Fairey Rotodyne? A twin turboprop wiht a rotary wing and winglets to carry the engine. It was designed to fly city centre to city centre and it is true - there is nothing new under the sun

David Neilson
13th December, 2010 @ 01:53 pm PST

Basically, as has pretty much been said by all the commenters so far, we have the V-22 already. But, by the same token, we have all sorts of various forms of aircraft for various different things. Keep the ideas coming. Eventually we will find a new concept, or make a huge improvement to existing concepts.

And that Sikorsky X2 does look awesome!

Chris Blake
14th December, 2010 @ 08:51 am PST

Watching the vid of this helo in hover, an unmistakable shudder is apparent in the prop nacelles and stub wing. I wonder whether the interaction between the props and the rotor aren't setting up some sort of harmonic resonance that could quickly become divergent...and possibly tragic.

Schmerdtz
14th December, 2010 @ 06:46 pm PST

Very interesting concept. We should find a new name for these hybrids between the autogyro and the helicopter.

Contrarily to the Sikosrsky X2, this vehicle is commercially sound and it will be capable of transporting people and payload right now. Indeed the fastest commercial copter available.

Well done Eurocopter ! I hope to see that in service soon for emergency transport to hospitals.

laurentien
15th December, 2010 @ 01:20 am PST

Here is some more prior art:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikorsky_S-69

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piasecki_X-49

PeetEngineer
15th December, 2010 @ 08:43 am PST

Thinking of a new name for these craft. Is there anything in existence called a heliplane. If not, this can be a heliplane.

Peet Smit
17th December, 2010 @ 12:23 am PST

Why not put an enclosed rotary fan on the back facing forward using steerable flaps on the back of the fan. It would be less complicated, more efficient, streamline and have fewer vibrations.

Mac Sharry Gerard
21st June, 2011 @ 02:41 pm PDT

Looking at this thing, I keep wondering why the doors are on the side. It seems like you'd have to be careful not to get chopped while getting out. They should've put a single big cargo door on the back.

AngryPenguin
5th September, 2011 @ 06:16 pm PDT
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