Built in absolute secrecy, Airbus Helicopters’ record-breaking X3 high-speed helicopter demonstrator created headlines around the world with its first flight in September 2010.
With a cruise speed of 220 knots (410 km/h), which is 50% faster than a conventional helicopter, the X3 brought to life a new aerodynamic configuration that has important implications in operations where speed means saving lives – such as air medical and search and rescue missions.
It also paved the way for Airbus Helicopters’ development of the RACER demonstrator, which uses the same simple design to marry higher speed with cost efficiency and fuel savings.
In the three-part podcast series (available below), members of the X3 team share their stories – from the demonstrator’s conception and assembly to its three-year flight test campaign and journey into the public eye. They also look at what’s next, with RACER.
The X3’s legacy lives on with today’s RACER demonstrator, part of the European Union's Clean Sky 2 research programme. RACER improves upon the X3’s simple, proven formula, marrying higher speed with cost efficiency and fuel savings.
Flying 50% faster than a conventional helicopter by combining a main rotor with boxed wings and propellers, RACER could have a major impact on missions where speed means lives, such as emergency medical services and search and rescue.
On the 10th anniversary of the X3's first flight, let's take a walk back in time – and then into the future – with Tomasz Krysinski, the head of the X3 programme and today’s Head of Research & Innovation at Airbus Helicopters.
And don't miss the two previous episodes in this series, with X3 test pilot Hervé Jammyrac, X3 flight test engineer Dominique Fournier, and U.S. tech rep Jonathan Hubbell.
X3: A secret project with an exceptional team - Dominique Fournier and Jonathan Hubbell
Creating the X3 required exceptional secrecy and a unique team. Up until its first flight, only a small group knew of the X3’s existence. In this episode, X3 flight test engineer Dominique Fournier explains the tactics that made this possible, from isolating teams, to early-morning truck rides in the cover of darkness. This secrecy also helped create a tightly welded team of exceptional profiles from around the world. How does one get selected for such an elite project? Jonathan Hubbell, the American technical representative who was hand-picked to accompany the X3 on its US demo tour, shows us how his after-work hobby helped land him the job of a lifetime.
And don't miss the other episodes in this series, with X3 test pilot Hervé Jammyrac, and with head of research and innovation, Tomasz Krysinski.
X3: On board the demonstrator with the X3 test pilot, Hervé Jammyrac
Over the course of its three-year journey, the X3 performed nearly 200 flights on two continents while breaking a world record and pulling off incredible stunts – like racing a high-speed TGV train.
Guiding the X3 each step of the way was test pilot Hervé Jammayrac. On the tenth anniversary of X3’s first flight, Jammayrac, now chief test pilot at Airbus Helicopters, reminisces about those extraordinary times.
And don't miss the next two episodes in this series, with head of research and innovation, Tomasz Krysinski, X3 flight test engineer Dominique Fournier, and U.S. tech rep Jonathan Hubbell.
September 6, 2010: First flight of the demonstrator for the X3, a high-speed hybrid helicopter. Eurocopter developed the H3 concept (High-speed, long-range, Hybrid Helicopter), a new type of aircraft that can perform vertical takeoffs and landings and obtain cruising speeds of approximately 220 kts. The aircraft will offer the efficiency of a turboprop engine and the excellent hover flight capabilities of a helicopter. In addition to high speeds, the H3 project focuses on the overall cost of the machine, which must remain affordable. This concept not only saves mission time but also reduces mission costs.
May 12, 2011: The Eurocopter X3 hybrid helicopter exceeds its speed challenge: 232 knots (430 km/h) is attained in level, stabilised flight. The X3 utilises a Eurocopter Dauphin helicopter airframe equipped with two turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system and two propellers which are installed on short-span fixed wings. This hybrid configuration creates an advanced transportation system offering the speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft and the full hover flight capabilities of a helicopter.
June 20, 2012: Eurocopter begins the US tour of its X3 high-speed hybrid helicopter, which will demonstrate the unique operational capabilities of this advanced transportation system during a month of visits to military facilities and hub locations for civil helicopter operators. The tour was initiated with a debut X3 flight presentation at the Grand Prairie, Texas headquarters of Eurocopter’s US subsidiary – American Eurocopter – which was attended by employees, elected officials, customers and industry partners.
June 7, 2013: The X3 hybrid helicopter opens the frontiers of aviation by attaining a speed milestone of 255 knots (472 km/hr) in level flight. Several days before this accomplishment, the X3 reached a speed of 263 knots (487 km/hr) during a descent. With these two successes, the X3 surpasses the unofficial speed record for a helicopter. The X3 configuration utilises a pair of RTM 322 turboshaft engines to power a five-blade main rotor system with two propellers installed on short-span fixed wings.