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Europe's new hybrid helicopter achieves speed milestone


MARIGNANE, FRANCE (BNS): European aviation major EADS Eurocopter-made new hybrid helicopter X3 has exceeded its original speed capability of 220 kts during a test flight recently.

The new innovative high-speed long-range X3 has touched a speed of 232 kts. (430 km./hr.) in level, stabilised flight for several minutes, its manufacturer said.

The new milestone was achieved on May 12 when X3 flew on its third flight test after an upgrade that integrated the helicopter’s definitive gearboxes, enabling it to operate at full power.

Eurocopter began flight trials of the new rotorcraft with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities in September 2010. The X3 undertook its maiden test flight on September 6 in southern France.

After achieving the initial true airspeed goal of 180 kts. (333 km./hr.) in November at a reduced level of engine power, the X3 underwent its planned gearbox upgrade and safety inspection.

During last week's test flight, the X3 quickly demonstrated its performance at full engine power, including impressive climb and descent rates, as well as excellent maneouverability, while also confirming the hybrid propulsion system’s outstanding capabilities for acceleration and deceleration.

Eurocopter had officially unveiled the X3 in September 2010.

The rotorcraft has been designed to carry out a number of tasks including long-distance search and rescue (SAR) missions, coast guard duties, border patrol missions, passenger transport and inter-city shuttle services.

Equipped with two turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system and two propellers installed on short-span fixed wings, the X3 can be used as “an advanced transportation system offering the speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft and the full hover flight capabilities of a helicopter,” according to its producer.

The chopper can also be used for military missions in special forces operations, troops transport, combat SAR and medical evacuation.

The flight test programme for X3 will continue throughout 2011 to explore the hybrid helicopter’s full flight envelope and evaluate all of the possibilities offered by this new technology, the company said.

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