The speedy new X3 helicopter made its public debut this week at the Paris Air Show flying a demonstration routine in front of the aerospace industry crowd. Developed by Eurocopter, the X3 (pronounced ‘x-cubed’) has already flown more than 260 miles per hour, though the company says extreme top speed is not the only goal.
Unlike Sikorsky’s X2 helicopter, which is an entirely new design, the X3 is built around an existing airframe. Starting with its Dauphin helicopter, Eurocopter removed the tail rotor and added a pair of propellers mounted on short wings. These propellers are used to counter the torque of the main rotor like a tail rotor, and are also used to provide thrust to push the X3 beyond typical helicopter speeds. The new helicopter uses twin engines like the standard Dauphin, but the engines are much more powerful and are used to power both the side propellers and main rotor.
Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling said in a statement the hybrid design will not only be fast, but it will also be affordable to customers.
“Future helicopters incorporating the X3 configuration will offer our customers about 50 percent more cruise speed and range at very affordable costs.”
During the week in Paris, Eurocopter has been reinforcing this message saying the other helicopters may be faster, but the X3 is aimed at developing a technology that is easily adaptable. The company says the speedy technology will add less than 25 percent to the cost of a comparable traditional helicopter.
Sikorsky’s X2 helicopter is a technology demonstrator developed over the past several years. The company has already begun development of its S-97 helicopter which will be a larger aircraft aimed at military customers using the pusher propeller and co-axial rotor design of the X2. At the Paris Air Show Sikorsky said the S-97 will make its first flight within the next three and a half years according to Rotor & Wing magazine.
Both companies see a wide ranging market for the faster helicopters. In addition to military applications, the extra speed and range is attractive for search and rescue operations, law enforcement, offshore oil rig transportation and as private transportation. In other words just about any application where helicopters are currently used as transportation would likely opt for more speed and range.