Eurocopter is set to build on the success of its X3 demonstrator with plans to introduce an advanced X4 helicopter into service in 2017. Designed to replace the AS365 and EC155 Dauphin medium twin helicopters, Eurocopter is keeping its cards close to its chest in regards to the X4 concept under development, but has said it will feature a radically different cockpit.

Speaking at Heli-Expo 2011 in Orlando, Florida last year, Eurocopter President & CEO Lutz Bertling said, ""Eurocopter is looking for a very significant increase in payload and performance, with an aircraft that has enhanced mission capabilities, is more environmentally friendly, and provides a significantly higher level of assistance for the pilot along with increased flight safety."

Bertling added that the Turbomeca-powered X4's configuration will dramatically transform the traditional configuration of a helicopter saying, "sitting in the X4, one thing will immediately become evident: The cockpit as we know it today will not be there."

Aviation Week has also quoted Bertling saying the X4 will be introduced in a two-step approach, with the aircraft to be introduced in 2017 not featuring all the elements of the final X4. A second, updated variant is set to follow in 2020.

"We truly believe it will be a game changer. With the X4 we intend to improve noise by 70 percent and reduce fuel consumption by 30 percent," Bertling told Aviation Week.

In the meantime Eurocopter will also continue flight tests of the X3 demonstrator, which are due to resume later this month. The company also plans to take the long-range hybrid helicopter to the U.S. for demonstration flights sometime around June/July 2012.

Source: Eurocopter, Aviation Week