DALLAS, Texas, 13 June 2012. Transported aboard a chartered cargo jetliner, the Eurocopter X3 touched down in Texas today after crossing the Atlantic Ocean from France's Istres Flight Test Center. The hybrid aircraft will be based at the Grand Prairie, Texas headquarters of Eurocopter’s U.S. subsidiary, American Eurocopter, in preparation for the X3’s official U.S. tour and debut on June 20.
During the tour, the X3 will visit five locations for presentations that will showcase its combination of a helicopter’s full hover flight capabilities with cruise speeds of a turboprop-powered aircraft. In addition to aerial demonstrations performed with Eurocopter’s test team, the X3 will be available for flight evaluations by selected U.S. armed services personnel and civilian operators.
In testing to date performed from the Istres Flight Test Center in southern France, the X3 surpassed its original speed target of 253 mph.; reaching more than 264 mph. in level flight while using less than 80 percent of available power. Beyond confirming its flight qualities, maneuverability, acceleration and deceleration capabilities, the hybrid aircraft has shown climb and descent rates along with low vibration levels, all without any passive or active anti-vibration systems.
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The X3 demonstrator, based on a Eurocopter EC155 helicopter with the addition of two short span wings and the removal of the tail rotor, is equipped with two turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system and two propellers installed on short-span fixed wings. A wide range of uses are imagined for this hybrid configuration, including long-distance search and rescue (SAR), coast guard duties, border patrol missions, passenger transport, off-shore airlift, along with inter-city shuttle services. It also is well-suited for military missions in special forces operations, troop transport, combat SAR and medical evacuation – benefitting from the combination of higher cruise speeds with vertical takeoff and landing performance.
Eurocopter took the hybrid configuration from concept to first flight in less than three years. After going airborne for the first time in September 2010, the aircraft’s flight envelope was quickly opened, reaching the initial speed objective of 207 mph. in level flight weeks later. Flights resumed in March 2011 after a planned upgrade to integrate the definitive gearboxes for operations at full power, with the X3 surpassing its original speed target of sustained cruise speeds in excess of 253 mph.
Currently, a product using the technology of the X3 demonstrator is not expected until 2020 at the earliest.