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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New-look hybrid helicopter unveiled

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By Tim Hepher Tim Hepher – Mon Sep 27, 2:10 pm ET


MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) – European group Eurocopter showed off a revolutionary winged helicopter on Monday, in a bid to counter U.S. rival Sikorsky's efforts to break the speed barrier by rewriting rotorcraft design rules.

The X3 hybrid helicraft -- which combines forward-facing propellers astride two short aircraft wings with the familiar overhead rotor blades seen on any normal helicopter -- was unveiled following months of secrecy.

The half-plane, half-helicopter design aims to overcome chronic obstacles to high-speed helicopter flight by combining the advantages of fixed-wing aircraft with those of a standard helicopter -- allowing it to fly at 220 knots or 400 km/hour.

The move by the world's largest civil helicopter maker came less than two weeks after United Technologies unit Sikorsky claimed an unofficial speed record of 250 knots (460 km/hour) with its own avant-garde prototype called X2.

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