By S.L. Fuller | February 16, 2018
The U.S. Army has officially flown Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor. Although the Army has said it doesn’t view the tiltrotor as a prototype — since the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program calls for demonstrators only — the Army said this first flight in the "Air Vehicle Concept Demonstrator aircraft" was part of the plan.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tom Wiggins of the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command conducted the flight at the Bell Flight Test Facility in Amarillo, Texas, according to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC). During the flight, which occurred last week, Wiggins performed hover in ground effect repositioning, pattern flight and roll-on landings.
"One of the keys to this successful [science and technology] demonstration effort is the nature by which the government and industry partners have completely teamed not only during the analysis, design and early qualification efforts, but also for the flight test activity," said Joint Multi-Role technology demonstrator Program Director Dan Bailey. FVL is Army-led, but is a joint initiative.
This is not the last test an Army pilot will conduct. AMRDEC said its personnel have been involved in the demonstrator effort, including integration of experimental test pilots and flight test engineers into the mixed flight test team. More flights are set to occur throughout the test program.
"With Army combat-experienced, experimental test pilots embedded in Bell's test team, we have a unique opportunity to help bring the project across the finish line and also develop insights valuable to the FVL initiative,” said Aviation Development Directorate Director Bill Lewis. “We're very proud of CW3 Wiggins."
There are four industry partners awarded under the FVL program: AVX Aircraft, Bell, Karem Aircraft and a Sikorsky-Boeing team. Bell and Sikorsky-Boeing were awarded some funding to build and fly technology demonstrators. (But Bell considers the V-280 a prototype.)
The V-280 showed it was capable of forward flight at 80 kt in a video released by Bell at the beginning of the month. The aircraft has logged more than 52 hours of rotor turn time and more than eight flight hours.