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Airbus flies RACER high-speed helicopter

The RACER high-speed helicopter departed Marignane on its maiden flight on 25 April. (Airbus)

Airbus Helicopters has flown its Rapid and Cost-Efficient Rotorcraft (RACER) concept for the first time, the company announced on 25 April.

The milestone took place at Airbus Helicopters' Marignane production facility in southern France, with the maiden flight lasting for approximately 30 minutes during which the aircraft's flight characteristics were assessed.

“This important milestone launches the flight campaign, which will take two years and will aim to progressively open the aircraft's flight envelope and demonstrate its high-speed capabilities,” Airbus said.

First revealed at the Paris Air Show in 2017, the RACER is geared towards providing the best trade-off between speed, cost-efficiency, sustainability, and mission performance. The concept has a stated goal of a cruise speed of more than 400 km/h (250 mph).

To achieve this performance, the helicopter builds on the company's X3 demonstrator, which features an EC 365 Dauphin airframe fitted with two stub-wing mounted propellers for forward propulsion in high-speed flight. The tail rotor of the X3 has been replaced by a fixed stabiliser assembly and, while the X3's propellers were in the conventional ‘pull' configuration, the RACER's propellers have been reversed into the ‘push' configuration instead.

Further to proving high-speed flight, the RACER is also looking to increase the helicopter's fuel efficiency. The lateral rotors and the main rotor will be driven by two RTM322 engines, with an ‘eco mode' for an electrically powered start and stop of one engine in flight for fuel savings and increased range.

As previously reported by Janes

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