Airbus debuts its half-plane, half-helicopter to the public

Airbus has a new aircraft that’s half helicopter and half airplane, designed to speed up flight times for emergency responders. The company calls it the Racer: it has wings like a plane, forward-facing rotors, plus top helicopter blades that seriously make it look like a baby of two aircraft.

Today, Airbus is sharing its one-off working demonstration model of the Racer in France’s southern port city of Marseille for the first time, Reuters reports. It follows new flight images and video posted by Airbus earlier this week that shows how it can take off like a helicopter and make a smooth landing without a long runway. The Racer had its first flight in April.

In an email to The Verge, Airbus Helicopters head of external communications Laurence Petiard writes that a ceremony was held today for the company’s partners in the Clean Sky 2 project, involving 40 partners from 13 different European countries. “They were able to see Racer in flight and then on static display,” Petiard said.

The European Union’s Clean Sky 2 program encourages development of lower-emission air transport and is meant to keep Europe’s aeronautical industry globally competitive.

The project’s head, Julien Guitton, said people are interested in high speeds, but not at the price of negative environmental impact. Simulations show the Racer meets Clean Sky 2 requirements around reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20 percent for conventional aircraft of the same weight, Guitton said.

Airbus has developed similar hybrid test aircraft, including the X3 demonstrator Concept from 2010. Meanwhile, Boeing has built the V-22 Osprey that uses tilt-rotors to achieve higher flight speeds, though that is bulky and designed for air combat. There are also vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft that have been in development for many years — but still haven’t brought about the flying taxi future we’ve been promised.


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