Eurocopter X3 prototype attains airspeed of 207 mph in level flight

Article by Christian Andrei, on December 25, 2010

Testing in Istres, France, proved that Eurocopter's X3 prototype can reach an airspeed of 180 knots (207 mph) in level flight. The prototype features the technology of a turboprop plane with traditional helicopter engineering.

The X3 had not operated at full power during the tests. But by the time that the tests are completed, it’s predicted to break the official helicopter speed world record.

Notably, the X3 was able to accomplish feats such as hitting an altitude of 12,500 ft. and maneuvering with left and right turns at bank angles of up to 60° during the last few months of testing.

The X3 uses a Dauphin helicopter airframe and is equipped with two Rolls-Royce turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system, together with two propellers fitted on short-span fixed wings. When pitted against Sikorsky's experimental X2, the X3 can’t compare when it comes to speed but its stylish looks and jet-like features are expected to compensate for it.

During a 40-minute test flight over southern France near Istres, the new Eurocopter X3 has managed to fly at speeds exceeding 255 knots at an altitude of around 10,000 feet. This marks a new milestone for the X3, particularly in the area of flight speed.

Eurocopter test pilot Hervé Jammayrac remarked that the X3 is made for high speeds. He quipped that while flying at both 255 knots and 263 knots, the X3 vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) demonstrator managed to perform as intended throughout its flight envelope, exhibiting remarkable stability while providing a low vibration level sans any anti-vibration system.

The new Eurocopter X3 features a pair of RTM 322 turboshaft engines powering a five-blade main rotor system. Its short-span fixed wings feature two propellers. The X3’s cutting-edge RTM 322 turboshaft engines -- presenting a good blend of power and growth potential – is a variant based on the RTM 322 powerplant featured in the NH90.

This engine comes with a FADEC adapted to the requirements of the new X3. The Eurocopter X3 is high-speed technology demonstrator for a cost-effective VTOL transportation system that could fly as fast as a turboprop-powered aircraft and could function like a helicopter. With these capabilities, the very affordable concept would be well-suited for long-transit flights. Eurocopter sees this

hybrid configuration to be able to perform a wide range of functions like long-distance search and rescue (SAR) operations, border patrol flights, coast guard missions, inter-city shuttle services and passenger transport and off-shore airlift.

Moreover, Eurocopter’s hybrid configuration and capability allow it to perform certain military missions like special forces operations, combat SAR, troop transport and medical evacuation.

Eurocopter chief executive Guillaume Faury remarked that using X3 technologies, Eurocopter will set the standard for future helicopters that offer new levels of performance in terms of speed, range and mission capabilities but at competitive prices. Faury recognized the efforts and commitment of teams involved in the development of the X3 demonstrator.

Press Release

EUROCOPTER'S X3 HYBRID HELICOPTER MAKES AVIATION HISTORY IN ACHIEVING A SPEED MILESTONE OF 255 KNOTS DURING LEVEL FLIGHT

The Eurocopter X3 hybrid helicopter has opened the frontiers of aviation by attaining a speed milestone of 255 knots (472 km/hr) in level flight on June 7. Several days before this accomplishment, the X3 reached a speed of 263 knots (487 km/hr) during a descent. With these two successes, the X3 surpasses the unofficial speed record for a helicopter.

The Eurocopter X3 hybrid helicopter has opened the frontiers of aviation by attaining a speed milestone of 255 knots (472 km/hr) in level flight on June 7. Several days before this accomplishment, the X3 reached a speed of 263 knots (487 km/hr) during a descent. With these two successes, the X3 surpasses the unofficial speed record for a helicopter.

Eurocopter achieved the historic 255-knot speed milestone with the X3 flying at an altitude of around 10,000 feet during a 40 minute test flight over southern France near Istres. It marks the latest in a growing list of achievements for the X3, which is Eurocopter’s technology demonstrator for an advanced, cost-effective vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) transportation system that offers the speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft and the full-flight capabilities of a helicopter.

“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. This state-of-the-art design & architecture engine family combines power and growth potential. 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.

This 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. Eurocopter 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.

“Based on the X3 technologies, Eurocopter will continue setting the standard on future helicopters – offering our customers new levels of performance in terms of speed, range and mission capabilities at competitive costs," said CEO of Eurocopter, Guillaume Faury. "The outstanding X3 achievements result from the commitment and excellence of our teams. I want to recognize everyone involved in the demonstrator’s development.”

The X3 was developed in a rapid paced Eurocopter program that utilized one of the company’s Dauphin helicopters as the airframe. For the latest high-speed milestone, the demonstrator was equipped with a drag-reducing rotor head fairing, which directly benefitted from company testing of a high-speed Dauphin DGV testbed during the 1990s, along with the addition of landing gear fairings. The Dauphin DGV enabled Eurocopter’s predecessor company Aerospatiale to set another helicopter speed milestone – reaching a record velocity of 200 knots in 1991.

Eurocopter flight test engineer Dominique Fournier – who was aboard the X3 with test pilot Jammayrac for the latest history-making 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. In reaching the latest 255- and 263-knot speed achievements, Eurocopter has further confirmed the concept’s potential.

The hybrid concept’s maturity also was validated in a 2012 U.S. demonstration tour for civil operators, military services and law enforcement agencies, with over 55 hours logged and 47 guest pilots taking the controls during appearances in four states from Texas to Virginia.

After the U.S. visit – which more than doubled the X3’s total flight time – Eurocopter performed an in-depth maintenance inspection that confirmed the mission-ready condition of the hybrid aircraft’s dynamic components and systems.

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