Aircraft

Speed record: Eurocopter X3 hits 255 knots

Eurocopter's X3 reached a level flight speed of 255 knots over the south of France on June 7 (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
Eurocopter's X3 reached a level flight speed of 255 knots over the south of France on June 7 (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
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Eurocopter's X3 reached a level flight speed of 255 knots over the south of France on June 7 (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
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Eurocopter's X3 reached a level flight speed of 255 knots over the south of France on June 7 (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
The X3's rotor hub was fitted with an aerodynamic fairing to reduce drag (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
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The X3's rotor hub was fitted with an aerodynamic fairing to reduce drag (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
Two adapted Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft engines power the X3's five-bladed main rotor and twin propellors mounted on the X3's stumpy fixed wings (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
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Two adapted Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft engines power the X3's five-bladed main rotor and twin propellors mounted on the X3's stumpy fixed wings (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
Having amassed more than 140 hours in the air since its maiden flight in September 2010, it's thought that the Eurocopter X3 will retire before the year is out (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
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Having amassed more than 140 hours in the air since its maiden flight in September 2010, it's thought that the Eurocopter X3 will retire before the year is out (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
The X3's rotor hub was fitted with an aerodynamic fairing to reduce drag (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
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The X3's rotor hub was fitted with an aerodynamic fairing to reduce drag (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
Eurocopter's X3 reached a level flight speed of 255 knots over the south of France on June 7 (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
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Eurocopter's X3 reached a level flight speed of 255 knots over the south of France on June 7 (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
Two adapted Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft engines power the X3's five-bladed main rotor and twin propellors mounted on the X3's stumpy fixed wings (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
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Two adapted Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft engines power the X3's five-bladed main rotor and twin propellors mounted on the X3's stumpy fixed wings (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
Having amassed more than 140 hours in the air since its maiden flight in September 2010, it's thought that the Eurocopter X3 will retire before the year is out (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
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Having amassed more than 140 hours in the air since its maiden flight in September 2010, it's thought that the Eurocopter X3 will retire before the year is out (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
Eurocopter's X3 reached a level flight speed of 255 knots over the south of France on June 7 (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
9/10
Eurocopter's X3 reached a level flight speed of 255 knots over the south of France on June 7 (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
The X3's rotor hub was fitted with an aerodynamic fairing to reduce drag (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)
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The X3's rotor hub was fitted with an aerodynamic fairing to reduce drag (Photo: Eurocopter/A.Pecchi)

Eurocopter has announced a new pair of speed records set by its hybrid helicopter demonstrator, the X3. Piloted by Hervé Jammayrac, the X3 reached a level flight speed of 255 knots (472 km/h) over the south of France on June 7, eclipsing the 250 knots (463 km/h) set by Sikorsky's X2 demonstrator back in 2010. The X3 reached 263 knots (487 km/h) several days beforehand, achieved during a dive rather than level flight, also besting the X2's record in descent – by a single knot.

In a company press release, Eurocopter flight test engineer Dominique Fournier, who was aboard the X3 during its record-breaking flight, reveals how the extra performance was eked out of the machine. "These flights allow us to further explore the behavior of main rotors at high speeds, and enable us to make effectiveness assessments of the fairing we've added to the main rotor hub – which will be beneficial for drag optimization across Eurocopter's overall product range," he said.

Otherwise, Eurocopter reports a familiar specification for the aircraft that flew on June 7. Two adapted Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft engines power the X3's five-bladed main rotor and twin propellors mounted on the X3's stumpy fixed wings which differentiate it from the Eurocopter EC155 on which it is based. This is more or less identical to the X3 that notched up 232 knots (430 km/h) in May of 2011.

Still, it's clear Eurocopter was keen to squeeze every drop of performance out of its technological demonstrator, which, judging by the press material, it is pitching as an sensible choice for search and rescue, border patrol, passenger transportation or special forces military operations.

However, having amassed more than 140 hours in the air since its maiden flight in September 2010, it's thought that the Eurocopter X3 will retire before the year is out. Aviation Week reports that the X3 may live on in the form of LifeCraft, a high-speed helicopter proposed by the European Commission due to fly in

So far as speed records go, we'll be keeping half on eye on Sikrosky and its S-97 Raider, which has superseded its X2, but is yet to make its maiden flight.

Look out for more aviation coverage from the Paris Air Show this week, where Gizmag is in attendance.

Sources: Eurocopter, Aviation Week

9 comments
Bob Ehresman
Almost as fast as a V-22. Keep tryin'...
Keith Reeder
You mean the V-22 that ISN'T a helicopter?
BeWalt
@Bob: Yes, luckily our orange is still juicier than that apple.
VoiceofReason
The AH-56 Cheyenne hit 244 mph in 1972. Doesn't sound like that much of an inprovement.
Sascha Humphrey
Well the record for non forward thrust (no forward/backward propeller) helicopter is still the Westland Lynx at 249.09 mph set on 12 Aug 1989, I mean they're a hybrid...
jeronimo
So they are streamlining, this bit and that bit to go a bit faster. Why bother ??? ... just go and buy a STOL plane.
Kiwibird
An airspeed of 255 knots is equal to 293 mph, so that isn't that far away from the V-22 Osprey's top speed of 275 knots, 316 mph. This V-22 top speed measurement was achieved at sea level though, so one wonders what altitude the X3 was at, how long 255 knots was sustained for, and how did the X3 behave at this speed? I wouldn't expect it to be able to go much faster, due to the increasing drag inherent in the helicopter configuration.
Ian Mitko
Will the propellors only work while it is in the air or will they be killing everyone who walks into them on the tarmac? What happens when there is an engine failure one side? Dead weight at least... Isn't putting extra engines just asking for higher maintenance bills and a greater chance of breaking down?
Keith Reeder
"I wouldn't expect it to be able to go much faster, due to the increasing drag inherent in the helicopter configuration". Which is why comparison with the V-22 is pointless and irrelevant.
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