says its new 5-6 ton X4 medium helicopter is on track for its first flight in 2015.
Little has been heard about the new aircraft since the departure of CEO Lutz Bertling in May last year. But speaking at Heli-Expo 2014 in Anaheim, Calif.,CEO Guillaume Faury revealed several key milestones in the development of the new medium helicopter.
The company has started endurance tests on the main gearbox of the X4, while the composite structure for the aircraft will be delivered this summer. Faury says the X4 will achieve a 20% reduction in operating costs per passenger compared to the current generation of rotorcraft.
An avionics iron bird, dubbed “Helicopter Zero,” has entered its test campaign. The aircraft will use the company’s Blue Edge blades, which feature a hockey stick-shaped leading edge at the outer tip, designed to reduce the noise generated by blade-vortex interaction (BVI), the pulsating sound created when the tip of a rotor blade hits the vortex shed by the tip of the preceding blade. The aim is to reduce noise by up to five dB. The blades—in development since 2007—have completed 150 flying hours fitted to an EC155 testbed flying out of Airbus’ facility at Marignane, near Marseille.
Faury confirmed that the X4 would be the first aircraft to be given an Airbus Helicopters designation, ending the EC (Eurocopter) designation given to the company’s current range of helicopters.
Initial plans to offer two versions of the X4 appear to have been dropped. When details of the X4 were first released back in 2011, the company was promising two variants; a basic version, followed two or three years later by a more advanced aircraft with a “game-changing” avionics suite.
The X4 will supersede the AS365 Dauphin and the EC155, and will likely provide some serious competition to’s AW139 and AW169, which have dominated that size category in terms of orders in recent years.
The X4 will be offered with two engine types, Pratt & Whitney’s PW210 and theArrano, developed from its TM800 concept.