Bell Tilt-Rotor Starts Ground Testing

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Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor prototype is ready to fly and on track for its first flight this November, the company said this week, and is now completing ground-run tests at the Bell assembly center in Amarillo, Texas. The V-280 is a clean-sheet next-generation tilt-rotor designed for military use. It will be simple to operate and affordable, Bell says. During the ground tests, the engineering team will check all the aircraft systems and flight controls before the first flight. The company is competing against Sikorsky/Boeing’s SB-1 Defiant for a military contract to produce the aircraft. The Army is expected to select one of the two designs by 2019.

The Defiant also was scheduled to fly this fall, but Boeing said in April they don’t expect first flight until early next year. The new designs will be evaluated by the Army to replace its fleet of Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, as well as Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters, which are used for utility and cargo. Bell says the V-280 will provide up to 800 NM combat range at speeds up to 280 knots, more than twice the speed and range of the current helicopter platforms. It can carry a crew of four and 14 troops, with a total payload of 12,000 pounds.

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