V-280 Valor (Bell Photo)
FORT WORTH, Texas – The V-280 Valor on Dec. 18 celebrated a full year of flight during which it has flown more than 80 hours reached speeds of more than 250 knots in forward flight and flown more than 300 miles from its birthplace in the Texas Panhandle to just outside Dallas.
Early in 2019, the aircraft should fulfill its namesake and demonstrate 280 knots in forward flight, according to Bell program manager Ryan Ehinger.
“We’ll be looking to get our 280-knot milestone early next year,” Ehinger said. “All the projections and correlations and analysis say we have plenty of power to achieve that, so it’s just a matter of getting the hours and flight time.”
While R&WI was in Fort Worth, the V-280 was down for maintenance, its nose cones removed and Bell technicians swarming through and around the aircraft. Reporters were prohibited from photographing the aircraft in such a state of undress, for fear its engineering secrets would be laid bare.
But since its move to Fort Worth from is birthplace in Amarillo, Texas, the company has been able to double the time between major inspection and maintenance groundings. The aircraft is now a resident of Bell’s Flight Research Center near Fort Worth where the company flight tested the V-22 Osprey and is currently testing the 525 Relentless.
“Since we’ve come down here, we’ve been able to show the reliability and maintainability of the aircraft,” he said. “Even in the short time we’ve been operating the aircraft, we have that level of confidence in the platform.”
The V-280 Valor is one of two prototype aircraft participating in the Army’s Joint Multirole Demonstration (JMR-TD) program. The other is the Sikorsky/Boeing SB-1 Defiant compound helicopter that was supposed to fly in 2018 but will now leave the ground in 2019.
In nearly 85 hours of flight and more than 180 rotor turn hours, the V-280 has achieved forward flight at 250 knots true airspeed, in-flight transitions between cruise mode and vertical takeoff and landing, 50-degree banked turns at 200 knots indicated airspeed, 4,500 feet-per-minute rate of climb and sustained flight at 11,500 feet.
It also flew more than 300 miles on two consecutive days, first around Fort Worth to gauge performance and then from Amarillo to Fort Worth – a distance of 370 miles – with company flight test engineers aboard. It cruised at 220 knots at 11,000 feet during the flight, Ehinger said.
Bell’s plans for now are to continue expanding the aircraft’s performance envelope and check off key performance boxes. The aircraft was named the V-280 as an aspirational nod to a 289-knot sprint speed, so demonstrating that level of performance is a major goal for 2019, Ehinger said.
Next year also will see more exploration of the Valor’s slow-speed agility and maneuverability like the aerobatic pirouettes it has performed in public demonstrations, Ehinger said. Bell also will install and test fly Lockheed Martin’s Pilotage Distributed Aperture System, which will give pilots and passengers a 360-degree view of the exterior of the aircraft.
“We’ve test fit it,” Ehinger said of the PDAS. “We’ll be installing that system and running it that year.”
The V-280 continues to expand the envelope in flight testing and expects to complete all the key performance parameters in the coming months, including additional low-speed agility tests and full cruise speed in forward flight.
“This anniversary is an important milestone as we provide options for the U.S. Army to meet its vision for a modernized force in the near future and regain overmatch in vertical lift,” Vince Tobin, executive vice president for military business, said in a statement. “We are prepared to field a suitable, affordable and sustainable aircraft to meet that accelerated timeframe.”