Bell pushed its V-280 Valor tiltrotor to 300kt (556km/h) in a March test flight, surpassing its previous top speed for which it is named, 280kt.

Believing that it has sufficiently proven the rotorcraft’s high-speed performance, the aircraft manufacturer will spend the coming months testing its low-speed manoeuvrability.

Bell V-280 Valor forward flight

Bell V-280 Valor


“We are flipping to more operational type manoeuvres and are looking at more low-speed agility stuff,” says Ryan Ehinger, programme manager for the V-280. “We want to show level one handling qualities. And, we’ve already demonstrated that in yaw and pitch. And, we are close to that on roll. We just need to get a few more test days with low winds to demonstrate that.”

Lockheed Martin's Pilotage Distributed Aperture Sensor (PDAS) system also flew for the first time aboard the V-280 in March.

Bell recently completed some initial tests on the tiltrotor’s ability to facilitate fast-roping deployment of troops. No personnel slid down a rope that was dangled from the side door of the aircraft, though Bell says the fact that the line remained stable during a low hover, and did not get blown around in the downwash, reassured the company that the descent is possible. Bell believes the rotorcraft’s ability to disembark troops is one of its advantages.

“When you’ve got two giant side doors, 1.8m (6ft) wide …. [on] both sides, you can see everybody is within two steps of getting out of the aircraft and getting to a fast rope, and getting out on the ground to execute the mission,” says Ehinger.

Bell has flown the V-280 for more than 100 flight hours and has put 200 operational hours on the aircraft in total, including ground and taxing tests.