June 7th saw the new Eurocopter X3 set new precedents for helicopters, hitting a new cruising speed of 293 mph and topping out at 302 mph during a descent. Based on the Eurocopter EC155, the X3 is a hybrid helicopter that is outfitted with a pair of short wings with propellers in addition to its five-blade main and tail rotors. These added propellers help provide up to 80 percent of the craft’s lift and are, together with the rotors, powered by two 2270 HP Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft engines.
Former CEO of Eurocopter Lutz Bertling anticipates the X3 seeing a future market for commuting passengers due to its speed combined with a low noise level relative to planes:
“Helicopters can fly relatively fast and the noise footprint for people living around the airport is relatively similar to current traffic noise, so vertical lift can still play a role in commuting people, providing you can design an aircraft that delivers higher speed at reasonable cost. I believe we could well see the first serial products which could do the job with a smaller number of passengers—say 19 seats—at the beginning of the 2020s, and I could imagine seeing larger aircraft with 30-40 seats in the mid-’20s.”