Eurocopter plans to build a production hybrid helicopter with side-mounted propellers - the architecture the manufacturer is evaluating with its X3 technology demonstrator - during the next seven years.

Chief executive Lutz Bertling says the technology will be implemented in a new helicopter during the next "six to seven years", with the new type being specified by the end of 2013.

He cautions, however, that the approval process will take more time than on conventional helicopters because of new certification requirements for the hybrid type.

Eurocopter X3

Credit: BillyPix

Eurocopter has made a decision on which aircraft the technology will be introduced in, but declines to reveal its choice for the time being. Bertling says the technology is feasible for any helicopter category, from the medium Dauphin upwards to potential very-large helicopters in the future.

He says Eurocopter is studying helicopters which could accommodate 50 passengers, to replace small regional aircraft at slot-congested airports. He expects the higher speed will not only be a "game changer" in existing helicopter categories but will open up new operational markets, of which a regional commuter rotorcraft could be an example.

Oil and gas operations are another likely field for an X3-type medium helicopter. Bertling says an oil price above $80 per barrel triggers more remote oil field exploration. So with the rising oil price, higher speed becomes more important.

But he adds that emergency services and VIP operations could also be operational segments where the architecture would be welcome.

Source: Flight Daily News