The manufacture of the Airbus “RACER” high-speed compound aircraft is rapidly gaining momentum at the manufacturer’s facility in Marignane, France, with the company planning for its maiden flight, possibly by the end of this year.
Airbus Helicopters Rapid and Cost-Efficient Rotorcraft (RACER)
Developed in the frame of the European Research Clean Sky 2 project involving 40 partners in 13 European countries, the Racer demonstrator was unveiled at the Paris Air Show in 2017. Two years later, it passed its critical design review and achieved significant manufacturing leads by 2020.
All the major components from the 40 partners have arrived for the final assembly of the aircraft in Marignane, while the main gearbox will be delivered by the Italian manufacturer-Avio Aero, in June.
The first assembly phase took place at Airbus Helicopters’ site in Donauwörth, Germany, which involved the installation of several major components such as the canopy, the box wings, the fuel system, and the cowlings, and more.
Design | Tech | Specs
The high-speed demonstrator is touted to be optimised for a cruise speed of more than 400 km/h (the average helicopter can reach a top speed of about 260 km/h) and aims at achieving the best trade-off between speed, cost-efficiency and mission performance. Powered by two Aneto-1X engines, one of which can be shut down while in cruise flight, the aircraft will register significant fuel savings, thanks to the innovative Safran eco-mode hybrid-electrical system.
The Aneto-1X engines are touted to provide 25% more power than similar-size engines.
The aircraft’s asymmetrical tailboom also helps to generate a lateral force, requiring less power from the propellers in hover flight.
Weighing in at nearly 7-8 tonnes, the Racer is designed to cruise nearly twice as fast as a conventional helicopter and with a target range of 400 nm.
The central fuselage
Designed and manufactured by Romania’s RoRCraft consortium and the aerospace company ROMAERO, the Racer lightweight airframe is a major achievement for the teams as this is the first time such an advanced hybrid helicopter structure, incorporating both metallic and composite primary structural elements, has been produced in Romania.
The side shells
The Racer’s shell components, made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), have been manufactured in a highly automated process by a research team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Foundry, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV in Germany.
Optimised for aerodynamic efficiency, the patented “double wing” or “box wing” provides lift in cruise mode while enhancing safety around the demonstrator during ground operations
The landing gear
Integrated inside the wing and fuselage with a movable-door system, the landing gear was conceived to minimize drag when retracted. When extended, the system will provide a large track for a safe landing.
Furthermore, the aircraft also features an “eco mode”- which Safran states, can reportedly result in a 15% reduction in fuel burn-when one of the two engines is placed in standby mode during cruise flight.
Reportedly, Airbus’ patented ‘Blue Edge’ rotor technology, together with the company’s experience with advanced blade technology will help to reduce the noise footprint of the aircraft.
We are moving towards a first flight for the demonstrator in the second half of 2022, more towards the end of the yearBrice Makinadjian-the company’s chief engineer for the program, told AIN during a media briefing in Marignane, France, ahead of Heli-Expo 2022
According to him, the concept is scalable and is also fully applicable to military missions, but that apparently, falls outside the scope of the Clean Sky 2 initiative, which focuses purely on innovations in the civil sector.