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  • X3 Gains Speed (with video)
    Posted by Robert Wall 11:11 AM on Dec 09, 2010

    Eurocopter's X3 hybrid helo has reached its first speed target: 180 knots.

    The program, unveiled in September, reached the initial speed marker on November 29 at the Istres flight test center in southern France -- the goal was reached slightly ahead of target. The next target is exceeding 220 knots.

    So far, the helo has also reached 12,500 ft. altitude and performed maneuvers up to 60 degrees angle of bank.

    In a statement, Herve Jammayrac, the test pilot, says the helo is showing "handling and flight qualities that are exactly in line with our ground-based simulator evaluations."

    The main rotor is used only for lift, with the two propellers replacing the tailrotor. Yaw control is maintained by adjusting the propeller pitch, although the pilot uses the familiar anti-torque pedals. The stub wings take on up to 40% lift at higher speeds, allowing the rotor speed to be reduced.

    The concept is aimed at allowing Eurocopter to bring to market a high-speed Super Puma- or Dauphin-sized rotorcraft before the end of the decade. While others are opting to pursue higher speeds, Eurocopter believes 220-230 knots is the sweet spot.

    The program was quietly launched in 2008 and in July the helicopter was shipped under the cover of night from the company’s Marignane production facility, on the outskirts of Marseilles, to Istres flight-test center. Flight trials began Sept. 6.
    The X3 will now undergo a period of inspection, with particular focus on life-limited parts and the gearbox. In March, flight trials would then be resumed to assess the top speed.

    By the end of 2011, Eurocopter hopes to be in a position to decide if a program should be launched. If so, a six-year time to market is planned.

    The X3 uses assorted elements from existing programs, including NH Industries’ NH90 twin Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca RTM332 turboshaft engines, an EC155 airframe and rotor, actuators from EC145, and gearboxes from EC175s.

    Here's a Eurocopter video:

    Tags: ar99, X3, helicopter

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