Rotor Radio: What it’s like flying an X2 helicopter at nearly 300 mph

West Palm Beach


Sikorsky chief test pilot Bill Fell at the tail end of the S-97 Raider at Sikorsky’s test flight facility in West Palm Beach, Florida. Dan Parsons Photo

Welcome to the second episode of Rotor Radio.

It has been a decade since the first Sikorsky X2 coaxial helicopter shattered the rotorcraft world speed record by flying 250 knots (287 miles per hour), a feat accomplished with its innovative tail propulsor. That prototype aircraft dutifully proved the configuration’s feasibility and now hangs in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

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Since then, Sikorsky, now owned by Lockheed Martin, has entered larger military versions of the X2 technology in U.S. Army programs to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk and field a new armed scout helicopter that will fill the role left vacant by retirement of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.

Sikorsky faces stiff competition from Bell, which is offering the Army its V-280 Valor advanced tiltrotor as a Future Long Range Assault Aircraft and 360 Invictus for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft. But X2 undeniably has shifted the narrative of what rotorcraft can do.

Steve Weiner, the chief engineer for X2 and now director of engineering sciences at Sikorsky, talks us through the design and capability of these unique machines, while chief test pilot Bill Fell gives Rotor Radio a cockpit perspective of what it’s like to fly a helicopter at nearly 300 miles per hour.

The Sikorsky/Boeing SB>1 Defiant (right) and Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider on the flight line at the company’s test flight center in West Palm Beach, Florida. Dan Parsons Photo

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