|The Sikorsky X2 Technology demonstrator set an unofficial speed record just two weeks ago.
On July 14, just two weeks ago, Sikorsky Director of Flight Operations and Chief Pilot Kevin Bredeneck flew the company’s X2 Technology demonstrator to an unofficial helicopter speed record of 250 knots true airspeed in level flight. Now Bredeneck and the X2—a sleek helicopter with twin counter-rotating rotors and a pusher propeller—are both at AirVenture, eager to meet the public at the Sikorsky Innovations booth.
Sikorsky Innovations, a division of Stratford, Connecticut-based Sikorsky was established one year ago to oversee the helicopter manufacturer’s research and development programs.
A video of the record-setting flight captures Bredeneck saying, “Wow!” just before the X2 hit the milestone speed.
“We set the power for 230 or 240 knots and the aircraft accelerated from 235 to 250 knots,” Bredeneck explained, recounting the final flight of the X2. “I was pleasantly surprised by the limited amount of power it took to get us to that speed—just about 71 percent power.
“We were expecting to be at 100 percent through 250 knots.”
With the 250-knot milestone reached, the Sikorsky team didn’t push the envelope any further.
“All the key performance parameters were met for the project,” Bredeneck said.
Technology times six
Steven Weiner, Sikorsky’s Director, Engineering Science, noted five distinct technologies that enabled the aircraft to achieve its record setting speed: “A more efficient blade design, their rigid all-composite construction, drag reduction rotor hub fairings, the FADEC engine with fly-by-wire flight controls, and an active vibration control system,” Weiner said.
The lessons learned in the $50 million X2 program are being incorporated into the S-97 Raider, a high-speed attack helicopter Sikorsky is developing.
Bredeneck, having completed one “first” in the X2, is now achieving another at AirVenture: his first visit to Oshkosh, fulfilling a lifelong dream.
“Ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted to come here, but every year at Sikorsky we have a project in development, and as chief pilot, I have to be there,” Bredeneck said.
“We are so happy to be here. We are kids first, and then we are engineers and test pilots.”
More tech to come
Meanwhile, Sikorsky Innovations is moving full speed on other projects including the Firefly, an electric-powered helicopter that is also on display at its booth.
Based on a
Schweizer 300 helicopter, the Firefly flies on a 150-pound air-cooled electric engine driven by lithium ion batteries.
“It’s not the top technology in energy density, but it provides reliable, safe operation that mitigates high voltage hazards,” said Jonathan Hartman, Engineer, Advanced Concepts Research and Engineering, and Firefly project team leader.
Hartman notes the electric power technology is so early in development that some might question why Sikorsky is involved at all.
“We could have waited until the technology is further developed, but we wanted to learn about it early in the cycle,” he said.
So when will the technology be ready for commercial application?
“To get an exact date when you will have a commercially viable aircraft, you need a crystal ball. That said, if the technology continues to go the way it’s been going, the next decade could be very interesting for this field.”
As Hartman sees it, the Sikorsky’s R&D process is something many EAA members can relate to.
“Oshkosh is synonymous with innovation in aviation,” he said. “We feel very strongly what we’re doing in innovation is like homebuilders—using small agile teams.
“We just may have a few more tools in our garage than the average homebuilder.”