A prototype Bell Helicopter tiltrotor called the V-280 Valor lifted vertically off the ground and hovered in ground effect for the first time this week.
The V-280, which denotes the aircraft's 280kt top speed, performed basic handling tests in hover mode outside Bell's tiltrotor production site in Amarillo, Texas, including a rapid pedal turn.
The hover test comes after the V-280 began a series of check-outs for first flight in September, including validating the GE Aviation T64 engines and electromagnetic interference on the Lockheed Martin-supplied avionics. Bell also tested the V-280’s gearboxes, actuation, software and rotors, says Keith Flail, vice-president of advanced tiltrotor systems at Bell Helicopter.
“The exciting thing to me is the integration of those and how the air vehicle as a whole is behaving,” he says.
Although Bell originally projected the Valor would fly in September, the V-280 is tracking well ahead of Sikorsky-Boeing’s SB-1 Defiant in the US Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration (JMR-TD). The SB-1, a high-speed design that uses coaxial rotors and a pusher propeller, was expected to fly this fall, but Boeing has pushed first flight until early 2018.
The JMR-TD will pave the way for the multiservice future vertical lift (FVL) initiative, which will replace the Boeing AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk.
The Valor’s tiltrotor configuration builds on the heritage of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, but the V-280 features improvements such as a straight wing and fixed nacelles. By doing away with the V-22’s slightly forward swept and dihedral wing, Bell decreased manufacturing costs by eliminating the need for a mid-wing gearbox, Flail says. Still, the rotorcraft is able to meet Bell’s 280kt cruise airspeed goal, he adds.
“Because of what we now know, it is less complex and less expensive,” he says. “That’s approach on V-280, it’s really hard to get the simple.”