Airbus' 'Racer' Helicopter Makes Its First Flight

The aircraft flew for 30 minutes in its maiden voyage in France
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2024 9:55 AM CDT

The Racer has taken flight. Quartz reports that the "strange helicopter-airplane hybrid" developed by Airbus went airborne on May 13, with a 30-minute flight in Marseille, France. Despite that flight's short duration, the company notes that the chopper's flight campaign will unfold more over the next couple of years, with the aim to "progressively open the aircraft's flight envelope [and] demonstrate its high-speed capabilities." The helicopter differs from conventional helicopters in that it features "fixed wings with control surfaces and propulsive propellers," per Quartz.

That propeller setup allows the helicopter to reach a cruising speed of up to 248.5 miles per hour. However, Julien Guitton, who heads up the Racer program, says in a release that "the aim of the Racer is not to go as fast as possible, but to offer enhanced operational capabilities at the right price for missions where speed can really be an asset." He adds, "Speed at any price, without taking into account the economic and environmental impact, is of no interest to anyone."

A wing mounted to the helicopter provides 40% of the aircraft's total lift, and flying in "Eco-Mode" allows for shutting off one of the helicopter's two engines while in flight, reducing fuel guzzling by 20%. That engine can be turned on immediately if needed, and even without it, the helicopter would still be flying faster than a typical helicopter, says Guitton. Check out the Racer's maiden flight here. (More Airbus stories.)

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