Eurocopter’s X3 high-speed hybrid helicopter demonstrator, which performed its maiden flight on September 6, 2010, reached the program’s Step 1 speed objective on 29th November attaining a true airspeed of 180 kts (333 km/hr) in level flight at a reduced level of engine power.
This performance was obtained at the DGA Flight Test base in Istres, France.
In the flight testing performed thus far, the flight envelope has been opened with and without autopilot to validate the basic hybrid demonstrator aircraft’s stability and handling characteristics.
The X3 has reached an altitude of 12,500 feet (3,810 meters) and performed maneuvers with left and right turns at bank angles of up to 60 degrees.
Having already surpassed the speed of a traditional helicopter, the next milestone for the demonstrator is the Step 2 phase at Eurocopter’s headquarters in Marignane, France, where the X3 will enter a second set of flight tests during which it is expected to reach sustained cruise speeds in excess of 220 kts.
The X3 utilizes a Eurocopter Dauphin helicopter airframe. It is equipped with 2 turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system, along with two propellers installed on shortspan fixed wings. This hybrid configuration creates an advanced transportation system that offers the speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft and the full hover flight capabilities of a helicopter. It is tailored to applications where operational costs, flight duration and mission success depend directly on the maximum cruising speed.
The X3 combines excellent vertical takeoff and landing capabilities with fast cruise speeds of more than 220 kts. Eurocopter envisions a wide range of applications for this concept, including long-distance search and rescue (SAR) missions, coast guard duties, border patrol missions, passenger transportation and inter-city shuttle services. It could also be well-tailored for military missions in Special Forces’ operations, troop transportation, combat SAR and medical evacuation.