|An artist’s rendering of the X6 points to the use of a five-bladed main rotor with low-noise blade technology.
Image courtesy of Airbus Helicopters
Airbus Helicopters plans to spend the next two years defining the specifications for a low-noise, high fuel-efficiency successor to its heavy-lift H225 Super Puma family, President/CEO Guillaume Faury said June 16.
The “concept phase” of the company’s X6 program will assess major customer operational requirements and address marketing, design and configuration choices for a twin-engine helicopter to start service in the early 2020s, aimed initially at three markets.
“The X6 is the next future helicopter for the commercial market, targeting oil and gas, commercial air transportation and search and rescue,” Faury said. With the X6, “we continue the journey to becoming the Airbus of helicopters”—the parent company that became a global force by offering competitive families of transport jets to commercial airlines.
Faury said production of today’s Super Pumas is expected to continue “at least for the next decade and a half.”
Airbus already has decided that the new helicopter will be designed to carry 19 passengers and have fly-by-wire flight controls, Faury said, as well as all-weather capability (with full de-icing) upon service entry.
He added that a military variant of the X6 would be developed.
Faury said manufacturers are developing new turboshaft engines that might power the X6.
In a related development, Turbomeca said at the air show that it plans by year’s end to begin integrating advanced components for a technology demonstrator to support development of a new family of 3,000-shaft-horsepower-class turboshaft engines for heavy helicopters.
The TECH3000 demonstrator has validated some compressor technologies, the company said, and “tests of a combustion chamber and turbine are underway.” It added that TECH3000-based engines would be designed to deliver a 25 percent improvement in fuel efficiency compared to today’s powerplants.
Airbus Helicopters’ latest initiative continues the “X” series of development projects that began with the X3 high-speed demonstrator. Its X4 became the medium twin H160, which completed its first flight June 13, while the X5 work led to the EC145 T2 (now the H145).