Bell V-280 Valor Tiltrotor Aircraft Performs Maiden Flight with Retracted Landing Gear

Bell Helicopter, a subsidiary of Textron Inc., announced that its V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft performed its maiden flight with the landing gears retracted.

“Continuing the pace after recent demonstration flights, the V-280 raised its gear entering another phase of envelope expansion and validation of key performance parameters”, the company said in a statement.

The aircraft had conducted its maiden flight on Dec. 18 last year while the first cruise mode flight was performed on May 11 this year. During the “cruise mode,” the rotors pivot, in flight, from vertical lift mode to fully forward facing.

V-280 Valor is a third-generation tilt-rotor aircraft being developed by Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin for the U.S. Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program.

The Bell V-280 Valor program is part of the Joint Multi Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) initiative. The JMR-TD program is the science and technology precursor to the Department of Defense’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program.

The Team Valor includes Bell Helicopter, Lockheed Martin, GE, Moog, IAI, TRU Simulation & Training, Astronics, Eaton, GKN Aerospace, Lord, Meggitt and Spirit AeroSystems. GE Aviation will manufacture the engines for the V-280, with the prototype (air vehicle concept demonstrator, or AVCD) using the General Electric T64.

In one major difference from the earlier V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, the engines remain in place while the rotors and drive shafts tilt. A driveshaft runs through the straight wing, allowing both prop rotors to be driven by a single engine in the event of an engine loss. The fuselage is visually similar to that of the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk medium lift helicopter.

The V-280 has a retractable landing gear, a triple-redundant fly by wire (FBW) control system, and a V-tail configuration. The wings are made of a single section of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer composite, reducing weight and production costs.

The V-280 is reportedly capable of a cruising speed of 280 knots (320 mph; 520 km/h) (hence the name V-280), a top speed of 300 knots (350 mph; 560 km/h), a range of 2,100 nautical miles (2,400 mi; 3,900 km), and an effective combat range of 500 to 800 nmi (580 to 920 mi; 930 to 1,480 km).

Expected maximum takeoff weight is around 30,000 lb. The V-280 will have a crew of 4 and be capable of transporting up to 14 troops. Dual cargo hooks will give it a lift capacity to carry a 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) M777A2 Howitzer while flying at a speed of 150 knots (170 mph; 280 km/h).

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