Souped-Up Seahawk

On October 16, 2008, at the New Castle County Airport near Wilmington, Delaware, Piasecki put its X-49A experimental Speedhawk helicopter through a final series of hoops that satisfied Phase 1 of its development for the U.S. Navy. The X-49A is a Sikorsky SH-60F Seahawk naval helicopter that Piasecki modified with an airplane wing and an aft propeller to give it greater speed and range. During the October demonstration, the helicopter reached 207 mph; an unmodified Seahawk at the same weight would fly at 150 to 160 mph. Other accomplishments demonstrated: a 35 to 50 percent increase in deceleration and acceleration speeds, compared with what a Black Hawk helicopter can do; a no-hover takeoff; a 47 percent increase in speed over a Seahawk operating at the same power; and a 50 percent reduction in vibration, due to the ducted propeller and the wing relieving the rotor of some of its lift and thrust duties. Next up? A third engine, which Piasecki hopes will enable the craft to exceed 230 mph. As for a production version, if one is approved, the company says that cruise speed will be 235 mph and dash speed, 255 mph. Video: Piasecki Aircraft (2:34)

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