Helicopter manufacturers are feeling the need for speed, and Eurocopter has challenged Sikorsky’s 250-knot X2 Technology demonstrator with its own 220-knot demonstrator. The Eurocopter X3 demonstrator hopes to reach that speed in 2011.
The X3 demonstrator’s first flight occurred Sept. 6 in southern France at a flight test center. Initial testing will continue through December with reduced power, progressively opening the flight envelope to speeds of approximately 180 knots. After a three-month upgrade, X3 flights will resume in March 2011 with the goal of reaching sustained cruise speeds in excess of 220 knots.
It is called a hybrid because it utilizes two propellers for forward speed as well as the traditional rotor. The X3 demonstrator is equipped with two turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system and two propellers installed on short-span fixed wings.
Possible missions include long-distance search-and-rescue (SAR) missions, coast guard duties, border patrol missions, passenger transport, and inter-city shuttle services. Military missions include special forces operations, troop transport, combat search and rescue, and medical evacuation—benefitting from the hybrid aircraft’s combination of higher cruise speeds with excellent vertical takeoff/landing performance.
The project has been in development for three years.