World’s Fastest Helicopter Tested By United Tech

August 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

United Technologies Corp is already the second-largest helicopter maker in the world so it comes as no surprise that they have been hard at work creating what is being hailed as the world’s fastest helicopter. The U.S. manufacturer recently put their creation to the test in New York and it seems that the flight was very successful.

According to United Tech’s Sikorsky unity, the prototype X2 helicopter has already been in development since June 2005. The test flight that took place on Wednesday was essentially a climax of years of hard work. But it looks like it’s paid off. The striking new aircraft has an estimated cruise speed of approximately 250 knots (464 kmph). That puts the X2 way ahead of its competitors since the fastest helicopters currently available on the market may only reach around 180 knots (333 kmph). The closest a helicopter has come to matching the speed of the X2 is the hybrid V-22 Osprey, which combines the landing and take-off benefits of a helicopter with the cruise speed of an airplane. The V-22 is capable of reaching 275 knots (509 kmph).

The X2’s first flight took place in Horseheads, New York, just 320 km outside of New York City. The flight lasted 30-minutes and the pilot kept things slow, keeping the helicopter at just 20 knots (37 kmph) on its inaugural test run. In doing so he was keeping with common industry practice. No doubt the speed of the aircraft will be progressively tested in faster and faster increments until the full capacity of the aircraft is exploited. United Tech plans to test the aircraft’s top speed sometime next year. Sikorsky program manager Jim Kagdis noted that it could be another five or eight years before the aircraft enters the commercial market.

There is clearly still a lot of work to be done before it reaches that stage. Still, development continues to go ahead at a steady pace and the X2 will no doubt be ready for sale soon enough. The helicopter’s main feature is the two main rotors positioned on top of the cabin. These spin in opposite directions, neutralizing the spinning force and providing a boost in speed. They also eliminate the need for a sideways tail rotor and so this has been replaced by a backwards-facing tail rotor, which provides a further boost in speed. Clearly the technology works. Now we just have to wait to see how well it works.

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