Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider rigid coaxial rotor prototype made its first flight from the company’s Development Flight Center at West Palm Beach, Florida, on May 22, testing the new design’s airworthiness in the low-speed flight environment.
The S-97 program’s chief pilot Bill Fell and co-pilot Kevin Bredenbeck flew N971SK for almost an hour, putting the Raider through a series of low-speed maneuvers with its pusher propeller disconnected, but turning due to friction.
“The rigid rotor system was rock-solid and provided a phenomenal amount of control,” said Fell.
“You very quickly make inputs in roll and in pitch and there’s no lag like a typical articulated rotor system. The aircraft responds immediately to your control input.
“We were able to march through the [flight test] card almost precisely like we did in simulation and get all of the data we desired.”
The first flight, which took place just shy of four years since Sikorsky last flew its X2 demonstrator, begins the start of a year-long, 100-flight-hour test program to expand to the Raider’s flight envelope. Sikorsky aims for the Raider to achieve a 220kt cruise speed while carrying weapons, be able to hover at 6,000ft on a 35 degree Celsius day and perform 3g maneuvers at speed.
Final assembly of the second S-97 prototype has begun at Sikorsky’s Development Flight Center. From early 2016, prototype two will serve as a demonstrator to offer customers an opportunity to experience the Raider’s capabilities first hand.
The S-97 first flight video can be seen below: