Al Marsh

Sikorsky X2 coming to Oshkosh, AOPA Summit

July 18, 2011 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

Soon you will read in AOPA Pilot about the Sikorsky X2 twin-rotor helicopter that was flown in excess of 250 knots true airspeed in level flight, and 263 in a one-degree descent last year. I was lucky enough to be present at the helicopter’s last flight July 14 (reaching 240 knots) northwest of West Palm Beach, Fla. It will be on display near ConocoPhillips Square (formerly AeroShell Square) at EAA AirVenture in a few days, and then on display again at AOPA Summit. What you won’t see are the software displays–the stuff that makes the magic happen. After 18 months of victory tours in its special truck, the history-making helicopter is on its way to the Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport, Virginia. AOPA Pilot has covered the X2 since it was a mere 181-knot helicopter. It first flew in 2008. With seven more flights, the X2 might have gone 280 knots true airspeed, say those close to the project, but it’s time to put the technology to use in a military Raider attack helicopter. Also on display at Oshkosh, like last year, is Sikorsky’s battery powered helicopter, Firefly, which hasn’t flown yet. With an expected endurance of 12 minutes, it must wait for better battery technology to be practical. It should fly in August. When I saw it there was no rotor, no center console for instruments, and no batteries. (It had all those parts on for Oshkosh 2010.) I saw work on a proprietary Firefly gear of some sort in progress, even as the X2 was prepped for its last flight.

By the way, I want to mention that the X2 team benefitted greatly from the Sikorsky counter-rotating XH-59A of the late 1970s and `80s, that went 245 knots true airspeed. The X2 team simply built its “house” on the XH-59A foundation, and some of the engineers who achieved the 245-knot speed, but with severe stability problems, are still at Sikorsky today to enjoy the moment. All told, there were 70 employees involved with the X2 from time to time, but no more than 30 at one time. There were 12 key players working 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., unless they came in at 4 or 4:30 a.m. Hats off to the two XH-59A pilots who sat there, fought the stability issues second to second, and went 245 knots in spite of them. It took two pilots because there were nine levers to control.

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10 Responses to “Sikorsky X2 coming to Oshkosh, AOPA Summit”

  1. John Lutz Says:

    Can we please get someone, other than the author, to proof-read these blog entries before they’re posted? So, so many have been posted, replete with typographical and grammatical errors. People seem to be in too much of a rush to get something posted that they fail to take the time to re-read what they’ve written. Especially for those working for professional organizations, it makes you look far less professional. It’s difficult to take you seriously. Thanks.

  2. Alex Kovnat Says:

    I look forward to seeing the X2 at AirVenture 2011. In recent years the Piasecki research and development organization devised an experimental helicopter which is a modification of the familiar Black Hawk. Instead of counter-rotating concentric twin main rotors and a pusher prop, the Piasecki design uses a combined antitorque and propulsor system at the rear, a single main rotor, and auxiliary wings. It would be interesting to see both the Sikorsky and Piasecki designs.

  3. Al Marsh Says:

    Gosh, John, all I did was add an extra “i” to “in.” I took it out. All better now.

  4. Al Marsh Says:

    Hi, Alex,
    The Eurocopter also uses auxiliary wings as well, and a single rotor. Two propellers power it to higher speeds. Sikorsky claims this makes it less like a helicopter, while theirs retains all the characteristics of helicopter flight. They also claim they have more power for the propeller, given that there is no tail rotor, and that the savings in power is 15 percent. The two designs will do battle in the upcoming competition to win the armed aerial scout contract.

  5. Art Says:

    How does the helicoper do in a 1 degree climb? Just wondering ,since it was published with 1 degree descent.


  6. Helicopter License Says:

    Great tease about the Sikorsky X2 twin-rotor helicopter piece coming out. Now I can’t wait to read it! And by the way, I think the writing in your blog is concise and cogent. I write about helicopter-related news myself, and I must say that the earlier comment was a little harsh. Typos happen to the best of us. Those are easy to fix. More important is the quality of content, and your posts are well-covered in that department. Keep those AOPA Pilot teases coming :)

  7. Al Marsh Says:

    Hi, Art,
    The purpose of that speed flight was to see how the helicopter reacted to higher speeds, so they didn’t do climb tests. The idea is that the airframe made it through 263, even in a descent, without loss of stability or needing more tail surface (which WAS the case at 181 knots).

  8. Al Marsh Says:

    Hi, Helicopter License,
    Thanks for the kind words. I gave away lots of my article secrets in this blog, so I saved the humor for the article.

  9. Helicopter Licenses Says:

    What a great article about Sikorsky X2 twin-rotor helicopter, though I do not prefer this model personally.

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