Eurocopter goes 232 knots in level flight

Boeing studies high-speed hybrid concept as well

May 18, 2011

Eurocopter 

The Eurocopter X3 has achieved 232 knots true airspeed in recent tests conducted in Istres, France. The speed was achieved in stable, level flight, surpassing an original goal of 220 KTAS. The design will be incorporated in future commercial helicopters. Testing will continue through 2011.

“Eurocopter’s teams have once again shown their ability to apply innovation as a cornerstone of our strategy in remaining the helicopter industry leader,” said Lutz Bertling, Eurocopter president and CEO. “Future helicopters incorporating the X3 configuration will offer our customers about 50 percent more cruise speed and range at very affordable costs, therefore defining the future of high productivity rotary-wing aircraft.”

“We were impressed by the ease at which this speed objective was attained,” test pilot Hervé Jammayrac said. “The X3 handles extremely well, demonstrating remarkable stability at high speed--even with the autopilot off. We are very proud of this achievement, which results from the dedicated efforts of all those who have worked on the project.”

The hybrid helicopter, with two propellers, uses a Eurocopter Dauphin helicopter airframe equipped with two turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system and the propellers. The company claims it’s like combining the speed of a turboprop aircraft with full hover capability.

In the meantime, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has joined with Boeing in a concept for another high-speed aircraft with hover capability. The concept combines ducted fan engines for forward flight with a retractable rotorblade system for hovering flight. Rotor blades retreat into a large hub, and the hub is stopped, when in forward flight. A 20-percent scale model is to be tested this year in a wind tunnel.