Avicopter Pursues High-Speed Compound Demo

By Bradley Perrett
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

The Jueying demonstrator will have a rotor diameter of 4 meters (13.1 ft.) and propeller diameter of 1.3 meters, says Avicopter. The fuselage will be 5.12 meters long and 0.76 meters wide. Height will be 2 meters, and the structure mainly composite. The complex mechanical arrangement is notable, since one of Avicopter's weaknesses is in the technology of dynamic components.

At the show Avicopter also exhibited its Feihong vertical-takeoff-and-landing airplane, a technology demonstrator that is in flight testing. A lift fan is embedded in the middle of the airframe of the aircraft, driven by a piston engine.

Flight testing revealed only straightforward problems at first, say officials, but the program is now working with advanced issues, such as trying to find the optimum method of achieving maximum altitude: with wing lift only, or with the aid of the fan. The Feihong is also a project of Avicopter's Changhe Aircraft at Jingdezhen. The aircraft, not a model, was displayed at Tianjin.

A bold but presumably distant concept displayed in model form at the show was the Blue Whale, a four-engine tiltrotor with a designed payload of 20 metric tons (44,000 lb.). Similar to the Jueying, it is far more likely to be an idea hatched within Avicopter than a project of the Chinese military, though an army or navy order would surely be needed to launch development.

The Blue Whale features two mainplanes, with tilting engines on the tips, a tail fin on the portly body, but no tail planes. The span of the forewing is less than that of the aft wing, reducing interference between the two sets of rotors, though they overlap by more than half their diameter. Loading is apparently through a rear door, as usual for a military airlifter.

With unusual precision, range is estimated at 3,106 km (1,930 mi.), maximum speed 538 kph, ceiling 8,615 meters (28,264 ft.) and “combat radius” 815 km.

The Blue Whale could satisfy future army and navy requirements, says Avicopter, adding that the aircraft would be able to maintain safe flight with only two engines operating. “It uses distributed integrated avionics to improve mission capability and to cope with air turbulence,” the manufacturer says in a brochure. Flight controls would be signaled with fiber optics and the structure would include some composite material.

—With Graham Warwick in Washington.


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