Airbus' Racer rotorcraft performs first flight

May 7, 2024
Developed with Safran Helicopter Engines, the hybrid-electrical eco-mode system allows one of the two Aneto-1X engines to be paused while in cruise flight.

MARIGNANE, France - Airbus Helicopters’ Racer demonstrator, developed in the frame of the European Research Clean Sky 2 project, has performed its first flight, in Marignane, France. The aircraft flew for about 30 minutes, allowing the flight test team to check the overall behavior of the aircraft.

This initial test begins the flight campaign for the Racer helicopter, which will span a two-year period to progressively expand the aircraft’s flight capabilities, particularly in high-speed performance.

Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters, highlighted the collaborative effort behind the Racer, citing it as a testament to what European partnerships can achieve. "With its 90 patents, Racer is the perfect example of the level of innovation that can be achieved when European partners come together," Even remarked. He expressed pride in Airbus Helicopters and its 40 partners across 13 countries, emphasizing the significance of the first flight and anticipating the demonstrator's role in advancing high-speed capabilities and fuel-saving eco-mode systems.

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Designed to cruise at speeds exceeding 400 km/h, the Racer aims to strike a balance between speed, cost-efficiency, and mission performance. It targets a 20% reduction in fuel consumption compared to helicopters of similar class, owing to aerodynamic enhancements and an innovative eco-mode propulsion system developed in collaboration with Safran Helicopter Engines. This hybrid-electrical system allows one of the two engines to be paused during cruise flight, reducing CO2 emissions. Additionally, the Racer seeks to showcase how its design can minimize operational noise.

Building on the aerodynamic principles validated by the Airbus Helicopters X3 technology demonstrator in 2013, which set a speed record for helicopters at 472 km/h, the Racer aims to refine the compound architecture for operational use. While the X3 focused on validating the compound architecture's efficiency, combining fixed wings and lateral rotors for propulsion, the Racer aims to evolve this concept closer to operational readiness, offering enhanced capabilities for missions where high-speed performance is advantageous.

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