Eurocopter X3 achieves record speed of 255 kts
The Eurocopter X3 hybrid helicopter has surpassed the unofficial speed record for helicopters by attaining 472 km/h in level flight.
Eurocopter achieved the 255-knot speed milestone on June 7 with the X3 flying at an altitude of around 10,000 feet during a 40 minute test flight over southern France near Istres. Several days before this accomplishment, the X3 reached a speed of 263 knots (487 km/hr) during a descent. Both values are a bit better than those achieved by the Sikorksy X2 in September 2010.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that the X3 is clearly in its element at high speeds.” said Eurocopter test pilot Hervé Jammayrac. “While flying at both 255 knots and 263 knots, the X3 performed exactly as it has throughout its flight envelope, exhibiting outstanding stability and providing a low vibration level without any anti-vibration system.”
The X3 configuration utilizes a pair of RTM 322 turboshaft engines to power a five-blade main rotor system with two propellers installed on short-span fixed wings. The RTM 322 variant powering the X3, is based on the RTM 322 powering the NH90. It incorporates a FADEC adapted to the requirements of this high-speed demonstrator.
The X3 concept is well suited for missions requiring long transit flights at high speeds, while retaining full vertical lift and hover capabilities – all at a very affordable cost, claims Eurocopter. The company envisions a wide range of potential applications for its hybrid configuration, including in long-distance search and rescue (SAR) operations, coast guard missions, border patrol flights, passenger transport and off-shore airlift, along with inter-city shuttle services. The combination of higher cruise speeds and excellent VTOL performance is also well-suited for military missions such as special forces operations, troop transport, combat SAR and medical evacuation.
Eurocopter flight test engineer Dominique Fournier – who was aboard the X3 with test pilot Jammayrac for the latest flights – said the current high-speed evaluations are providing real data, in addition to the more symbolic aspect of achieving rotorcraft speed milestones. “These flights allow us to further explore the behavior of main rotors at high speeds, and enable us to make effectiveness assessments of the fairing we’ve added to the main rotor hub – which will be beneficial for drag optimization across Eurocopter's overall product range,” Fournier explained.
With these latest flight milestones, the X3 demonstrator has accumulated a combined total of more than 140 hours aloft since making its maiden takeoff in September 2010. After easily surpassing Eurocopter’s initial target of 220 knots for the X3, its speed was steadily increased while confirming the hybrid configuration’s excellent flight qualities, maneuverability, outstanding acceleration and deceleration.