Bell V-280 Tiltrotor Prototype Achieves First Flight

The V-280 Valor advanced tiltrotor lifted off Dec. 18, marking a first for Bell Helicopter’s offering in the Army’s Joint Multirole technology demonstration (JMR-TD).

The company did not immediately provide information about the duration or other characteristics of the V-280's first flight. Video and still images from the company show the aircraft lifting off from Bell's Amarillo, Texas, runway under clear blue skies and hovering a few feet above the ground under.

“This is an exciting time for Bell Helicopter, and I could not be more proud of the progress we have made with first flight of the Bell V-280,” Mitch Snyder, president and chief executive for Bell Helicopter, said in a prepared statement. “First flight demonstrates our commitment to supporting Department of Defense leadership’s modernization priorities and acquisition reform initiatives. The Valor is designed to revolutionize vertical lift for the U.S. Army and represents a transformational aircraft for all the challenging missions our armed forces are asked to undertake.”

Valor is one of two industry teams participating in the Army’s Joint Multirole technology demonstration (JMR-TD) that will inform aircraft and system design for the follow-on Future Vertical Lift family of next-generation helicopters.

Construction on the first V-280 prototype airframe was completed Sept. 13 and ground test commenced a week later. Bell designed the advanced tiltrotor using lessons learned from production and operation of the V-22 Osprey. The company is seeking to simplify the mechanics of tiltrotor technology that allows the aircraft to fly fast like an airplane and takeoff, hover and land like a helicopter. Bell is a unit of Textron[TXT].

Valor’s only competitor in JMR-TD – which is not technically a competition, but a demonstration of current industry technology for the Army – is the SB-1 Defiant built by Lockheed Martin's [LMT] Sikorsky unit and Boeing [BA]. The Defiant is based on the Sikorsky S-97 Raider, which employs coaxial main rotors and an aft pusher propeller to achieve the same fast-yet-maneuverable capability the Army desires.

Sikorsky’s Defiant is scheduled for a first flight sometime in early 2018. The S-97 has been in flight test for over a year. One of the two existing prototypes suffered a hard landing in August, but the company said the mishap will not hinder progress of the program, which is meant to validate the coaxial-rotor design. Sikorsky built a second airframe which has taken over the flight test campaign.





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