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Monday, February 25, 2008

Heli-Expo 08: Sikorsky Assesses X2 Market

Jim McKenna

Sikorsky Aircraft is seizing Heli-Expo as an opportunity to size up potential commercial and other applications for its X2 technology. The company interrupted development of the X2 program, and the march toward first flight, to bring the prototype aircraft to the show in Houston. Team leaders said it is one thing to describe the aircraft, aimed at achieving 250-kt-plus cruise speed, in Powerpoint slides and quite another to show potential customers a real aircraft, which the displayed aircraft nearly is. (It includes flight test article main, counter-rotating coaxial blades, the aft propulsor, cockpit flight controls and displays, and flight instrumentation, though some key internal components were removed to avoid damaging them during shipment and display) An obvious first application of X2 technology would be an armed escort for the Bell Helicopter/Boeing V-22, whose speed outmatches U.S. Marine Corps AH-1Z Cobras. The prototype would be nicely sized for such a mission. Other potential applications would be for offshore support to ultra-deepwater offshore rigs, emergency medical services, and executive/VIP service. One Sikorsky executive claimed he was collared at a reception on the eve of the show by a European operator who wanted to put a deposit down on an X2 delivery slot. "I was tempted," he said, "but I didn't know yet what he would be putting a deposit on." For related news
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