Since making its first flight last December 18, Bell's V-280 next-generation tiltrotor has continued its flight-test campaign, conducting more than nine flight hours including pattern flights at speeds up to 80 knots, according to Ryan Ehinger, Bell Helicopter V-280 program manager. Ehinger said the prototype aircraft has accumulated more than 56 rotor turn hours to date and that the development team is continuing to expand the conversion mode flight envelope at higher speeds toward full cruise mode.
“The Bell Helicopter V-280 team continues to work swiftly and decisively to meet the Department of Defense's capability requirements for the next generation of future vertical lift,” he said. The V-280 reached another milestone on February 7 when it was flown for the first time by an Army pilot. Chief Warrant Officer Tom Wiggins, U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command, made the flight at Bell's test facility in Amarillo, Texas. Army test pilots and flight engineers are embedded as part of a mixed flight test team in the V-280 program.
The V-280 program is part of the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) initiative, a science and technology precursor to the Department of Defense's Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program. It combines the resources of Bell, Lockheed Martin, GE, Moog, IAI, TRU Simulation & Training, Astronics, Eaton, GKN Aerospace, Lord, Meggitt and Spirit AeroSystems. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the FVL program is designed to find a replacement for 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.
Bell (Booth C5122) said 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. It also differs from the V-22 in that on the V-280 only the gearboxes and prop-rotors rotate, while on the V-22 the engines, gearboxes and prop-rotors all have to rotate as thrust direction is changed. The V-280 also eschews the forward wing sweep of the V-22. Going to a straight wing on the V-280 eliminates the need for a mid-wing gearbox and makes the wing easier to manufacture. The tiltrotor provides twice the speed and range of conventional helicopters. 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 more than 13,000 pounds of useful load. It features fly-by-wire flight controls and a pair of GE Aviation T64-GE-419 turboshaft engines.