Airbus Helicopters is pushing off the first flight of its compound Racer—which stands for rapid and cost-efficient rotorcraft—to 2022. A company spokesman said the delay was the result of “the slowdown of several production lines caused by the pandemic.”
When initially announced in 2017, Airbus said Racer would begin flights in 2020. Despite the delays, the program has already achieved significant milestones, including passing critical design review in 2019 and more recently the manufacturing of long-lead items in 2020, with major components such as the canopy, the composite side shells, and the tail boom already delivered. Assembly of major subassemblies also started last year, and the spokesman said Airbus Helicopters expected to launch final vehicle assembly in “the coming weeks.”
The Racer is designed to cruise nearly twice as fast as a conventional helicopter, with cruise speeds up to 220 knots. The aircraft is derived from the European Commission's H2020 research program as part of the Clean Sky 2 initiative. It is powered by a pair of 2,500-shp Safran Aneto-1X engines that provide 25 percent more power the similar-sized engines. Up to a 15 percent reduction in fuel burn can be achieved when one of the two engines is placed in standby mode during cruise flight, a configuration Safran calls "Eco Mode."