The X3 hybrid helicopter has opened the frontiers of aviation by attaining a speed milestone of 255 knots (472 km/hr) in level flight on June 7. Several days before this accomplishment, the X3 reached a speed of 263 knots (487 km/hr) during a descent. With these two successes, the X3 surpasses the unofficial speed record for a helicopter.
Eurocopter achieved the historic 255-knot speed milestone with the X3 flying at an altitude of around 10,000 feet during a 40 minute test flight over southern France near Istres. It marks the latest in a growing list of achievements for the X3, which is Eurocopter’s technology demonstrator for an advanced, cost-effective vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) transportation system that offers the speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft and the full-flight capabilities of a helicopter.
Eurocopter’s aircraft configuration for the X3 uses a pair of turboshaft engines to power a five-blade main rotor system, along with two propellers installed on short-span fixed wings. This concept is well adapted to missions requiring long transit flights and where speed is important, while retaining vertical lift and hover capabilities – all at a very affordable cost.
The company envisions a wide range of applications for its hybrid technology in future products, including long-distance search and rescue (SAR), Coast Guard missions, border patrol missions, passenger transport and off-shore airlift, along with inter-city shuttle services. It also is well-suited for military missions in special forces operations, troop transport, combat SAR and medical evacuation – benefitting from the combination of higher cruise speeds with excellent vertical takeoff and landing performance.
Eurocopter began X3 flight testing in September 2010 at the Istres Flight Test Center in southern France. Beyond confirming its excellent flight qualities, maneuverability, outstanding acceleration and deceleration capabilities, the hybrid demonstrator has shown exceptional climb and descent rates along with very low vibration levels – all without any need for passive or active anti-vibration systems.