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.