MARIGNANE, France, May 17 (UPI) -- Eurocopter in France said its X3 hybrid helicopter demonstrator has surpassed its original speed target of 220 knots.
The milestone was achieved last week during stable, level flight, with the hybrid maintaining a true airspeed of 232 knots for several minutes after an upgrade that integrated the X3's definitive gearboxes, enabling it to operate at full power.
"Eurocopter's teams have once again shown their ability to apply innovation as a cornerstone of our strategy in remaining the helicopter industry leader," said Lutz Bertling, Eurocopter's president and chief executive officer.
"Future helicopters incorporating the X3 configuration will offer our customers about 50 percent more cruise speed and range at very affordable costs, therefore defining the future of high-productivity, rotary-wing aircraft."
Eurocopter began X3 flight testing last September in a program that combines vertical takeoff and landing capabilities with fixed-wing cruise speeds.
After the X3 achieved the initial true airspeed goal of 180 knots at reduced engine power, the X3 underwent a planned gearbox upgrade and safety inspection.
The X3 utilizes a Eurocopter Dauphin helicopter airframe equipped with two turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system and two propellers, which are installed on short-span fixed wings. This hybrid configuration creates an advanced transportation system offering the speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft and the full hover flight capabilities of a helicopter, the company said.
The company envisions a wide range of uses for the helicopter concept, including long-distance search-and-rescue missions, coast guard duties, border patrol missions, passenger transport, offshore operations and inter-city shuttle services.
It also could be tailored for military missions in special forces operations, troop transport, combat SAR and medical evacuation, Eurocopter said.