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Bell V-280 Tiltrotor Achieves Controlled Conversions

 - November 10, 2017, 9:55 AM
On October 26, the Bell Helicopter V-280 Valor tiltrotor prototype aircraft successfully achieved controlled conversion from 95 to 75 degree pylon and back at the company’s Amarillo, Texas facility. This conversion allows for full hover and low-speed agility maneuvering. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)

Earlier this month the Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor prototype successfully achieved controlled conversion from 95 to 75 degree pylon and back, allowing for full hover and low-speed agility maneuvering. The aircraft will continue ground run testing at Bell's Amarillo assembly center, where it will undergo a series of functional tests running all aircraft systems and flight controls in preparation for first flight later this fall. Last month Bell achieved 100 percent rotor RPM during ground runs at Amarillo. Bell completed build on the prototype in September.

The V-280 is competing to win the U.S. military’s Future Vertical Lift Program to replace the Army’s Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks and the Bell UH-1 operated by the U.S. Marine Corps. The program ultimately could result in deliveries of as many as 4,000 aircraft by 2030 under a contract potentially worth $100 billion and include significant foreign military sales.

The V-280 airframe features extensive use of monolithic honeycomb and carbon-core composite components in the fuselage, wings, tail structures and ruddervators, and the widespread use of chemical bonding in place of traditional fasteners in its substructures. Power comes from a pair of GE Aviation T64-GE-419 engines.

The in-development model differs from the Bell Boeing V-22 tiltrotor in that on the V-22, the engines, gearboxes and prop-rotors all rotate as thrust direction is changed; on the V-280 only the gearboxes and prop-rotors rotate. The smaller V-280 also will have 50 percent more flapping capability in its rotor system than that on the V-22, giving it greater agility in all axes. The V-280 is also much smaller than the V-22. The V-280 can carry 14 passengers and four crew and eliminates the V-22's rear loading ramp in favor of six-foot-wide fuselage doors under the wings. V-280 specifications include a maximum speed of 280 knots, combat range of 500 to 800 nm, maximum self-deployable range of more than 2,100 nm and 13,000+ pounds of useful load.

Bell is looking to the next generation of military avionics for the aircraft including perhaps the Lockheed Martin so-called “smart helmets” coupled to the pilotage distributed aperture system (PDAS), similar to the system on the F-35. PDAS uses a series of sensors on the aircraft linked to computer processors to generate images and stitch them together to provide the pilot with a real-time, 360-degree field of view outside the aircraft. Over the last several years Bell has displayed a V-280 mockup that features a single-screen touchscreen instrument panel designed to use the foundation of the PDAS.