FARNBOROUGH: Eurocopter's X3 restricted by US regulations

Farnborough
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Eurocopter (OE13) is not showing its experimental X3 hybrid helicopter at full force during the ongoing demonstration in the USA due to national regulations.

Airspeed is limited to 220kt (407 km/h) and pilots are not banking the EC155 Dauphin-based helicopter further than 85˚, even though bank angles of 120-140˚ would be "easily possible", says chief executive Lutz Bertling.

The paperwork necessary to fly a French experimental military aircraft in the USA and operate from military airfields was the biggest obstacle in arranging the campaign, he says. The authorities approved the operation only with limitations, because they did not want to reassess the complete certification file for the aircraft, given that its capabilities go beyond the flight envelope of in-production models.

eurocopter x-3

 Eurocopter

Nevertheless, clients were "enthusiastic" about the aircraft and "overwhelmed by how easy it is to fly", says Bertling, who has flown the X3 himself. US flight crew were invited to fly the helicopter under the command of Eurocopter test pilots.

Thus far, the aircraft has been shown to a number of potential public and commercial customers, such as border control and emergency service operators. The next step will be demonstrations for the US army and air force, although Bertling says he could not name any special forces.

The demonstration tour is scheduled to end at the Pentagon in Washington DC on 26 July, before the aircraft will return to Europe to be displayed at the Berlin air show in September.

Bertling says that test speeds will be "significantly" extended, because the hybrid concept proved to perform better than expected. Last year, the aircraft reached just over 230kt in level flight while using only 80% of its engine power.