for all intents and purposes, helicopters are never designed for speed, but for hovering which allows them to perform what traditional fixed wing crafts can’t and go to places where other crafts can’t. as such they have been doing pretty damn well in areas such as transportation of crews to and from oil rigs and ships, ferrying casualties, as well as search and rescue operations. so it may seem that a helicopter don’t quite need to be fast, but that hasn’t stop Eurocopter from experimenting that possibility of breaking the helicopter speed barrier. the Eurocopter X3 Hybrid Helicopter, which we featured on two occasions (here and here), is the experimental aircraft that attempts to bring the best of fixed wing aircraft to a VTOL vehicle and the result, is nothing short of brilliant: this EC-155-based helicopter with wings (albeit stubby ones) and propellers recently topped 263 knots (303 MPH or 487 km/h), proving that helicopter – if you do it right – could be as fast and thereby expanding its applications.
we suspect that we might be reporting about this X3 for the last time, as it is said that after over 140 hours of air time, this demonstrator is likely to retire later this year. so if you have a vault of cash looking to exchange for this air ride, then you are not so much in luck. however, the good news is, what the X3 has achieved is slowly making its way into production and in near future, the possibility of short range flight via a hybrid helicopter like the X3 might very well be a reality. and since it produce less noise as compared to jet aircraft, it is possible for such aircraft to operate in airfield nearer to the population where short range shuttle which otherwise would be filled in by buses or even small aircraft, can be offered. of course, what it has achieved is nowhere near turboprop aircrafts, but in helicopter’s context it is blindingly fast and if you know enough of the mechanics of helicopter, you will appreciate why high speed is always a barrier to helicopter. click past the jump for a few more look in the image gallery.