Eurocopter Unveils New X3 Hybrid Helicraft
September 30, 2010 — Following months of secrecy, Eurocopter unveiled an all-new design – a hybrid “helicraft” it calls the X3 – in Southern France on Monday, September 27. According to the company, the high-speed, long-range hybrid helicopter concept combines excellent vertical takeoff and landing capabilities with fast cruise speeds of more than 220 kts.
The prototype demonstrator, which made its first flight on September 6 at France’s Istres Center of “DGA Flight Testing,” has two turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system and two propellers installed on short-span fixed wings. This, the company says, will offer the speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft and the full hover flight capabilities of a helicopter. There is no tail rotor; X3 instead incorporates a conventional empennage with twin vertical stabilizers.
Lutz Bertling, president and CEO, hailed the design as a key element of Eurocopter’s innovation roadmap. “The teams at Eurocopter took this hybrid helicopter from concept to first flight in less than three years, which demonstrates their skills, capabilities, and dedication to defining the future of rotary-wing aircraft,” he said.
The company foresees a wide range of missions for the X3, including long-distance search and rescue (SAR) and coast guard missions; border patrol; commercial transport and inter-city shuttles; as well as a variety of military operations.
Eurocopter will continue initial testing through December 2010 with reduced power, inching the flight envelope up to about 180 kts. Plans are then to perform upgrades and resume flights in March 2011, shooting for sustained cruise speeds exceeding 220 kts.
The Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group is a Division of EADS.