Military

Bell Expanding V-280 Flight Envelope

By Dan Parsons | June 19, 2018

Bell V-280 advanced tiltrotor sits at Bell's Amarillo, Texas, manufacturing facility.

At six months old, the V-280 Valor already is flying 160 kt. Bell will tell you it has cruised at 190 kt, and after a demonstration of the aircraft here, there is every reason to believe it will meet or exceed that speed. The U.S. Army wants a helicopter-type contraption that can go more than 200 kt and still hover and land vertically.

Bell might have it with the Valor.

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What’s lost in raw numbers is how this aircraft can dance at 30 feet above the ground. It can pirouette. Everyone admits it is not a move that’s necessary in combat, but it is incredibly deliberate, steady and demonstrates the hover capabilities of the advanced tiltrotor.

For about an hour, Bell sent its test pilots up and out on the V-280 Monday for journalists — R&WI was there — and company dignitaries.

In the half year since its first flight Dec. 18, 2017, the next-generation tiltrotor, the only one of its kind, has performed and been more easily managed than even Bell’s own test pilots expected.

Unlike its predecessor, the V-22 Osprey, the V-280’s twin engines stay put while just the rotors move to create thrust and lift, depending on how the aircraft is being flown. That allows a major operational perk for the Army.

Without a nacelle hanging in the field of fire, the V-280 can mount door guns.

It is still an experimental aircraft, but in its young life, pilots have put 35 hours in air time on the aircraft — call it an even 40 after the gracious flight before the media.

Its only real competitor for revolutionary new vertical-lift technology, the Sikorsky SB-1 Defiant, has not yet flown. Both aircraft are entered in the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD).

During the demonstration, the V-280 made pirouettes over the tarmac, pulled a jump takeoff and flew comfortably at 160 kt, or more than 180 mph, according to test pilot Don Grove.

“This aircraft has absolutely exceeded my expectations, in terms of capability,” Grove said.

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