Airbus Helicopters Reveals X3 Successor Plan


Airbus-Helicopter-X3

At the ILA Berlin Air Show next week, Airbus Helicopters plan to reveal its initial concept for a 220kt (410km/h)-cruise helicopter developed under the EU-backed Clean Sky 2 effort. The preliminary design review was intended for program schedule in late 2015 according to research documents leaked to the general public. Originally revealed at the 2014 Farnborough air show under the LifeRCraft (low-impact, fast and efficient rotorcraft) banner, Airbus Helicopter announced its involvement in the high-speed rotorcraft project and envisioned it as the successor to the record breaking X3 high-speed demonstrator.

The X3 was last flown in 2013 after having achieved speeds of 255kt in level flight. If we are to take the details of a stakeholder presentation in March at face value, the overall responsibility for the development of the aircraft will be split between a multitudes of Airbus Helicopters operations.

Germany will be in charge of the main fuselage and wings, while the rotors - main and lateral - will be handled in the Le Bourget, France blade facility and finally the tail boom and control surfaces will be prepared by Airbus’ factory in Albacete, Spain. The document went on further to state that the project management, integration and ground-and flight-test activities will be overseen at the company’s headquarters in Marignane, France.

There are three sub-projects that have been allocated approximately 4 million dollars under the most recent rounds of EC proposals which include two work packages developing canopy structure and engine compartments for the demonstrator aircraft. Avio Aero which is owned by GE Aviation will attempt to “define an advanced health monitoring system” for the lateral gearboxes and main gearbox reduction stages.

Airbus Helicopters Deutschland has always been quietly working on designs for future compound rotorcraft along with possible alternatives which include main engines and addition of nose-mounted canards to increase lift and enabling the main wing and propellors to be moved to the rear. Patent documents filed in July 2013 covers a number of configurations, all of which feature a joined or box-wing design on the side of the aircraft and pusher propellers with driveshafts from the main engine being contained in the upper wing.

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