Posts Tagged ‘Sikorsky Innovations’

Sikorsky X2 coming to Oshkosh, AOPA Summit

Monday, July 18th, 2011

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.