• Airbus Helicopters' Racer demonstrator lifts off. (Jérôme Deulin / Airbus Helicopters)
    Airbus Helicopters' Racer demonstrator lifts off. (Jérôme Deulin / Airbus Helicopters)

Airbus Helicopters announced late last week that they had flown the first prototype of their Racer experimental rotorcraft.

The aircraft flew for 30 minutes from the Airbus plant in Marignane, France, which enabled the crew to test the aircraft's handling.

Racer is a hybrid rotorcraft that uses a rotor for vertical flight and sustained horizontal flight, but is also driven by two propellers in pusher configuration.

Airbus began work on the Rapid and Cost-Effective Rotorcraft (Racer) concept in 2017 after it was first introduced to the industry at the Paris Airshow that year.

“With its 90 patents, Racer is the perfect example of the level of innovation that can be achieved when European partners come together," said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters.

"This first flight is a proud moment for Airbus Helicopters and for our 40 partners in 13 countries.

"I look forward to watching this demonstrator pioneer high speed capabilities and develop the eco-mode system that will contribute to reducing fuel consumption." 

Optimised for a cruise speed of more than 200 KTAS, the Racer demonstrator aims to achieve the best trade-off between speed, cost-efficiency, and mission performance. The Racer also targets a fuel consumption reduction of around 20%, compared to current generation helicopters of the same class.

The hybrid-electrical eco-mode system enables one of the two Safran Aneto-1X engines to be paused while in cruise flight, reducing CO2 emissions.

Airbus expects testing to continue for another two years, during which time the company test pilots will slowly expand the flight envelope to check the overall behaviour of the Racer.

The Racer was developed from the Airbus Helicopters X3 technology demonstrator, which broke the speed record for a helicopter by reaching 254 KTAS in 2013.

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