Eurocopter yesterday unveiled the X3 (“x cube”) demonstrator, a compound helicopter with a 220-knot cruise speed. The aircraft first flew on September 6 in hover, and is scheduled to fly again on Thursday. Some 100 flight-test hours are planned in the next 18 months, with the target speed expected to be reached in the first quarter.
The fact that Sikorsky’s experimental X2 is a compound helicopter will not exclude it from setting an official helicopter speed record, according to Marcel Meyer, executive officer of records for the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the world aviation record sanctioning body.
Eurocopter is working on a compound helicopter with a single main rotor, a fixed wing with two propellers in puller configuration and no tail rotor, probably in response to Sikorsky’s X2 and Bell/Agusta Aerospace’s BA609 Tiltrotor, which are attempts to create a faster rotorcraft. The Marignane, France-based helicopter manufacturer in May last year filed a patent application at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) is giving Boeing $9 million over the next two years to investigate the feasibility of developing a disc-rotor compound helicopter capable of achieving forward speeds of up to 400 ktas while retaining all the maneuverability of a traditional helicopter. The disc-rotor would have a rotating circular wing with retractable blades that extend from the disc edge for takeoff and landing.
Helicopter pioneer Frank Piasecki, who died two weeks ago at age 88, leaves behind a lasting legacy in the rotorcraft world. Piasecki is well known for developing the Army’s CH-47 Chinook and the Navy’s CH-46 Sea Knight twin-rotor helicopters, which are both now built by Boeing’s rotorcraft division in eastern Pennsylvania.
As the month of May came to a close, a team of Boeing engineers were putting the finishing touches to a one-of-a-kind flying machine at an outpost of that company’s “Phantom Works” just outside the sun- and sand-blasted southwestern Arizona town of Yuma.
Retrofit technology that could turn the Pentagon’s fleet of Black Hawks and other helicopters into 200-knot, high-altitude speedsters, and later be applied to the civil market, is one step closer to reality.
This year marks the 100th birthday of the helicopter, but it is actually difficult to be sure who deserves the title of “first to fly a manned rotorcraft.” Frenchmen Louis Breguet, Paul Cornu and Maurice Léger all achieved some sort of takeoff in 1907, but in reality this branch of aviation began more than a century before.
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