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New Airbus Aircraft Is Half Plane, Half Helicopter, All Fast

The Racer is the $217 million successor to the X3.

Airbus this week unveiled to the public the Racer, its new one-off demonstrator aircraft that’s half helicopter, half plane and built to fly fast.

According to Reuters, Airbus this week gathered a crowd of industry executives, politicians and European Union representatives at its base in France to show off the Racer, its $217 million successor to the X3, which debuted in 2010. The company said the Racer is capable of a cruising speed of about 250 miles per hour, nearly 100 miles per hour faster than a traditional helicopter.

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The rotorcraft skips the tilt-rotor design found on aircraft like the V-22 Osprey and instead opts for a traditional, top-mounted main rotor, engineered for low drag, paired with two lateral rotors in pusher configuration. The lateral rotors can either provide asymmetrical thrust for anti-torque and yaw control, or symmetrical thrust for propulsion.

Besides speed, the Racer is also designed for efficiency and mission performance. It features a double-wing design that Airbus said it optimized for aerodynamics and weight reduction, an asymmetrical tail boom built for better hovering, and integrated landing gear for reducing drag. Inside, there’s an electric-hybrid system that allows for single-engine operation while cruising. It all adds up to 20% savings in fuel consumption.

Airbus said the aim of the Racer is not to go as fast as possible, but to offer enhanced operational capabilities at the right price for missions where speed can really be an asset. Those possible missions include emergency medical services – where faster response time can mean the difference between life and death – along with search and rescue operations, public service and commercial transportation.

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