“In the 20s every helicopter more or less will be flown in an optional manned version,” said Lutz Bertling, CEO of Eurocopter, with particular reference to the U.S. market.
He was speaking at the Eurocopter New Year greetings to the press annual event this morning. In answer to a question as to whether this meant Eurocopter was developing such a beast, Bertling answered: “This means any new acquisition will be optional manned.” By which we understand that, yes, Eurocopter will be working on this issue.
But for the moment they are working on the X³ high-speed hybrid helicopter demonstrator which first flew in September 2010 and is now entering its phase 2 flight tests with the aim of reaching a cruise speed of at least 220 knots. Bertling said the idea was not to break speed records or to increase the range but to increase productivity. “This means we want to fly 50% faster at a maximum increase of 20 to 25% in acquisition and operating costs.”
The X3. Photo credit: Eurocopter
The company is also working on the X4, a successor to the EC155 Dauphin which is known as the Panther in its military version. So although the X4 is being developed as a civilian helicopter, it will doubtless eventually have a militarised version. Tantalisingly, Bertling said “the way of flying this helicopter will be completely different... the cockpit as we know it may no longer exist.” But no further information was to be had.
The EADS company also is continuing work on what it calls its Bluecopter technology seeking further improvements in noise, vibration and performance through the Blue Pulse and Blue Edge blade programs.
The technical demonstrator aircraft developed on an EC145-based platform by Eurocopter on its own funds to meet the Armed Aerial Scout requirement for the U.S. Army meets all the missions specified, Bertling said, and is now flying with the mission equipment package. Also in the United States, work is continuing on a potential partnership with Boeing to develop a new generation heavy-lift helicopter. “In the 2020s, Europe will run out of capabilities in this segment while the U.S. wants something better than the CH47-F,” Bertling said.