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Eurocopter’s X3 takes to the sky ahead of U.S. tour


June 18, 2012

Eurocopter's X3 takes to American skies for the first time

Eurocopter's X3 takes to American skies for the first time

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Eurocopter’s X3 hybrid helicopter has taken to American skies for the first time after being transported stateside aboard a chartered cargo jetliner early last week. The X3 is in the U.S. as part of a month-long tour in which Eurocopter will demonstrate the aircraft's operational capabilities for civil and military use.

To date, testing has been conducted from the Istres Flight Test Center in southern France, where the X3 demonstrator previously surpassed its original speed target of 220 knots (407 km/h or 253 mph) by maintaining a true airspeed of 232 knots (430 km/h or 267 mph) in level flight, while using less than 80 percent of available power.

The first U.S flight took place on June 15 in Texas, ahead of the official start of the U.S. demonstration tour, which kicks off on June 20 in which it will visit five cities.The tour will see Eurocopter’s test team demonstrating the helicopter’s full hover flight capabilities and cruise speeds of a turboprop-powered aircraft. This is enabled by the aircraft’s two turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system and two propellers installed on short-span fixed wings.

During its U.S. tour, the X3 will be based at the Grand Prairie, Texas, headquarters of Eurocopter’s U.S. subsidiary, American Eurocopter, which is where the tour will kick off on June 20. While the remaining cities are yet to be revealed, Eurocopter is also making the X3 available for flight evaluations for selected U.S. armed forces personnel and civilian operators.

The following video shows the X3's first flight in the U.S.

Source: Eurocopter

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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

re; windykites1

The propeller blades had colorful protective sleeves installed during the in hanger shots.


Military use?? If soldiers touch down in this thing with people shooting at them, they are going to have to sit there like sitting ducks while the wing rotors spool down or get minced by them when they jump out.

see these comments by Marco at Phys.org:

There is no easy and safe means of deploying a rescue winch, because of the twin rotors outboard the center of the craft.

Also, there is no platform to mount external stores because the side mounted propellors are in the way. Therefore not much good for weapons, fuel or emergency relief delivery.

The ingress and egress from the craft is also dangerous, because of the spinning propellors nearby.

Doug MacLeod

^^^ What Doug said. They should have mounted the outboard engines in a pusher configuration to keep the props well behind the doors. That would also make the "wings" available to mount under-wing munitions or what-not.


re; Doug MacLeod

First the X3 is not a production design, it is a proof of concept prototype/technology demonstrator and the evaluations are to generate interest and specifications for the production models.

But you can fire machine guns through propellers without blowing them off, there is room for rocket pods between the propeller and the cabin, and while I would not want to to do a hot Z extraction in it, a little forward motion (under 5 knots) would keep the poor infantryman out of the propellers in a hot Z insertion.

Using a trapdoor, or having the hoist a little aft of optimal would allow such operations with adequate safety.


Just shaking my head. Did any of the designers step back from having their nose on the drawing board? Same thoughts as the other commenters. Those side props in its current configuration is a dangerous thing in many ways. Some things could be done with alot of "ifs and buts". Where's the technical advantages straight out of the box? Pretty poor video and looks like it was done by a group of high school kids; nothing to be proud of from a multi-million dollar company. Also, what's up with the American flag? It's a EUROCOPTER not an AMERICOPTER. I bet with the EU restrictions, not much of it was from the US. Remember the Airbus restrictions? I'll ride a blackhawk for military or civilian use before I would ride in that contraption.


When a chopper goes down 99% chance of escaping is a fairytale, doesn't matter where propellers are, rotor is in same configuration as all helicopters. Show me how many people have escaped a crash in a helicopter that this one one do the same?


Hmmm - hands up those of you who (admit to), hearing of the Fairey Rotodyne...?

This had a single, central main rotor, twin (Rolls-Royce Dart), turbo-props for forward flight, a rear loading ramp and some of us will even remember building the Airfix kit, back in the sixties...

So this is yet another example of an old idea, rehashed & fitted with an (almost obligatory, these days), glass cockpit - and which may or may not prove practical for some applications.

Wouldn't it be refreshing, though, if someone could actually come up with something new - just to prove that 21st-century thinking has indeed moved on from that of Leonardo da Vinci's era...?

Nick Herbert

fairey rotodyne googled it. what an awesome machine. prototyped in the 1950's apparently very successful. cancelled because of politics and lack of orders. never had a any regard for politicians.


I really like the way the forward drive props change colour, as the machine is pulled out of the hanger. Yes, I remember the Fairey Rotodyne. I think it made a lot of noise in flight. Why did the video not show a high speed fly by?


What I find curious is the sneering towards the so-called "complexity" of the co-axial solution offered by Sikorsky in the X2. It seems to me that gearing 2 engines to drive 2 counter-rotating main rotors and a pusher prop is a bit less complex than gearing 2 engines to run 1 main rotor and 2 drive shaft-driven, widely separated propellers of which one needs to be geared to spin faster than the other. Then again, I'm not an engineer so perhaps my view is incorrect. Also, having those props so close to the fuselage makes getting out or entering while the copter is hovering an experience with a very high pucker factor. Wind gusts would not be your friend.


Co-axial rotors worked real nice in the sixties, would work even nicer today. FBW with modern computer support makes gusts less difficult than a few decades ago. Helicopter business is awfully conservative, at least in the US.

Sture Bloom

re; KMartin

There is no reason to have the two propellers spin at different RPMs the difference in thrust generation is controlled by pitch control. As for complexity put a locked 'differential' on the bottom of the main rotor shaft and use a couple of CV joints and your good to go. In all fairness I would use a specifically engineered three sprocket box that aims the output shafts down the wings without the need of the CV joints except to deal with airframe flex.


Fairey Rotodyne: Is based on the autogiro principle. End of comparison.

Bert Ober

@Slowburn: I think he meant that the props and rotors would need to spin at different speeds, not the props needing to spin at different speeds to each other.

Jason Catterall

Surprised no one mentions Carter Copter. Slowed rotor/small wing, pusher props, capable of well over 400kt speeds and V/STOL. Much faster than this hybrid heli. Two prototypes have successfully flown, and the idea scales well. Not sure why they don't get more press.

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