China Pursues Ultrafast Tiltrotor


A Chinese official told local reporters last week that researchers are moving forward with plans to build a four-engine tiltrotor aircraft capable of speeds up to 310 mph, substantially faster than other heavy-lift helicopters. The Blue Whale project was first reported on about three years ago, so last week’s announcement seems to signal a commitment to the ambitious project. “We will design two variants of the Blue Whale — a medium-duty type and a heavy-duty one,” Wu Ximing, chief helicopter designer at the Aviation Industry Corp of China, told China Daily last week. “The medium-duty model will have a maximum takeoff weight of 20 metric tons (22 tons), and the heavy-duty model 40 tons (44 tons).”

The Blue Whale will have four rotating propellers, set on the tips of two parallel wings. Officials have said they plan to have a flying prototype by 2018. Meanwhile, Sikorsky is continuing to develop the S-97 Raider, which first flew in May 2015, for the military market. The Raider, which flies with two counter-rotating rotors plus a horizontal pusher prop at the tail, is expected to reach speeds of about 250 mph.