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Friday, November 1, 2013

Different Strokes at High Speed: Tiltrotor, X2 and X3

By Peter Donaldson

With three manufacturers who are developing high-speed rotorcraft represented on the panel, the Helitech International 2013 Conference provided an opportunity to gauge the differences in emphasis between the AgustaWestland AW609, Sikorsky’s X2 and Eurocopter’s X3 and their likely effects on the civil market.

Roberto Garavaglia, AgustaWestland’s senior vice president for strategy and business development, pointed to the AW609’s combination of 270-knot speed, 700 nm range and pressurized cabin that allows it to fly above the weather at 25,000 feet, calling it “a phenomenal way of developing the civil market into areas where today there is no possibility to operate.” Hinting at future Arctic operations, he talked of operating to rigs “which are further away and maybe even in the north of the planet.”

Significantly, Sikorsky’s sales director for Europe, Alex Sharp, did not conjure visions of X2 Technology compound coaxial helicopters serving distant rigs. “We see at least the initial market being almost totally military,” he said. “What we are really seeing driving the offshore market,” he continued, “is a focus on range as opposed to speed… So we tend to focus on that area and not so much on what X2 gives us, which is a lot of speed and performance at altitude and in really hot climates, where we see the military operating. We are going to let the military side develop the technology and then see where the application is on the civil side.”

In contrast, Eurocopter UK CEO Markus Steinke said that the X3 compound helicopter concept demonstrator was aimed directly at the civil market. “It is about productivity; we deliver more output in a given time for a given amount of money,” he said. “And I think what you have in front of you is various ways into the future – proof that the future will change.”

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