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Is it a plane, a helicopter? No, it's the X3

Is it a plane, a helicopter? No, it's the X3
By Euronews
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One purpose of the Paris Air Show is to showcase the latest aviation technologies – what we will be seeing in our skies in the future.

Among helicopters there is something rather different from EADS’s Eurocopter.

It is the X3 (pronounced X-cubed), a revolutionary aircraft and different from traditional helicopters in that it is much faster.

The highest possible speed with an aircraft using a rotor, or rotary wing, on top is 330 kilometres an hour.

In test flights, the X3 has already reached, 430 kilometres an hour, thanks to its two forward facing propellers mounted on stubby wings.

Eurocopter’s Experimental Test Pilot, Hervé Jammayrac, told euronews the extra speed comes without the pilot having to learn a lot of new skills: “When it is hovering – stationary – it’s piloted exactly like any other helicopter. Then, when you fly faster, the main difference is that instead of tilting the rotor to go forward, there are actually propellers, for horizontal flying. So, we have controls that are very intuitive, which means you can just say to yourself: ‘I want to go fast, or go slower’ So it is really quite simple to fly.”

Higher speeds make the aircraft more useful to its operators. For example, an oil company can get crews to its platforms faster and so save money.

Daniel Semioli, Experimental Flight Test Engineer with Eurocopter, explained: “A helicopter like this, that can travel at high speed, is 20 percent more expensive to build than a conventional helicopter with the same capability, but it can fly 50 percent faster, which means a operating cost saving of around 25 percent.”

Also on show at Le Bourget is what is being billed as the cockpit of the future.

Developed by the European defence group Thales, it is an ergonomic space which – they claim – makes piloting a plane as easy as using a touch screen phone or tablet computer.

Denis Bonnet, Head of Innovative Cockpit Design at Thales Avionics, enthused: “The idea is to really design the cockpit around the pilot, depending on his strengths, while trying to help him improve the areas where he is weakest and really make him the most important element in terms of the safety of the aircraft.

“The end result is this new technology with a fully configurable single touch-screen. I can interact directly with it, with my finger; I can use it a bit like an iPhone, just like the technology we encounter on a daily basis. And I’m able to directly look at things [on the screen] like the images from the aircraft’s cameras.”

Paris is the world’s oldest air show but displaying the newest aviation technology, something which the pilots of the planes that took part in the first show in 1908 could not even have dreamed of.