European hybrid helicopter finishes US tour

By on Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

European helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter’s super-fast new X3 model on Monday completed a promotional tour of the United States, the largest military and civilian market in the world.

Eurocopter and parent firm EADS presented the X3 — pronounced “X cubed” — mainly to the US oil and military sector, finishing its final overseas tour in Manassas, Virginia, just south of the US capital Washington DC.

Two propellers on small wings on either side of the fuselage allow the X3 to reach speeds of 400 kilometers (250 miles) per hour, roughly a third faster than traditional helicopters, while maintaining maneuverability.

The director of Eurocopter’s American division, Marc Paganini, boasted that the demonstration version proved that such a craft could eventually have a “50% increase in speed with a maximum 25% increase of life cycle cost.”

Unlike the practice in classic helicopters, explained test pilot Herve Jammayrac, the pilot does not need to lower the nose of the craft to accelerate or to raise the nose to decelerate.

Still, the X3 is based on existing technologies. “It’s simple, and as it’s simple, it’s affordable,” said flight test engineer, Daniel Semioli.

Civilians could use the X3 to conduct search and rescue missions over long distances, for coast guard purposes or as intercity shuttles.

But the X3 also has military applications, and could transport troops and carry out rescue missions, said vice president of business, development and army programs for Eurocopter North America, Stephen Mundt.

Eurocopter already controls half the market for civilian helicopters in the US and hopes to have permanently opened doors to its products at the Pentagon, after the sale of 345 UH-72 Lakota light helicopters.

“It looks like the market likes the concept,” said Paganini of the X3.

At this stage, the X3 only exists in a demonstration version designed to study the craft’s technological feasibility.

Eurocopter must first finish a full prototype version before considering mass production, slated for the end of the decade. The sample craft has flown a total of 100 hours since its maiden flight in September 2010.

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