Typically over 2000 people tune into the live updates led by Jason Hill. This time was no different, offering the audience a detailed rundown of all the latest developments. What is remarkable about this month’s report is the extraordinary number of “firsts” achieved in such a short time.
We are nearing 1,000 helicopters sold, with a total of 943 aircraft in 67 countries pre-ordered to date. This includes 765 HX50 helicopters and 178 HC50.
24 Oct 2023
Hill have made tremendous strides in building fuselages 6 and 7, and all the related elements needed to complete them in preparation for December's Global Meetup & Discover Event.
In these most recent fuselages, the brow line modification has been implemented, and there has been integration with exterior lighting, bulkhead, undercarriage and door system.
Two full airframes are in production in DC3, with airframe 6 just back from its first layer of surface treatment and paint production. Among many firsts on display are refinements like the wing tip cuffs, ready for the landing lights, as well as structural internal components, e.g. the carbon rear bulkhead.
With fantastic progress being made on all the composite elements, fuselage 7 is now being painted. There is more fitting to get the tail booms integrated, so all that is left to make is the last of the doors and the non-structural elements that sit on top of the fuselage.
“These are fuselages that are very much a culmination of everything we’ve developed in the program to date. All of the improvements and enhancements to the manufacturability, the processes and the core design are embedded into both of these fuselages.” Jason Hill
The first two structurally representative tail booms include all the features they need to attach to the monolage and drivetrain, as well as all the mechanical components, lighting and bumper. For the first time many newly made parts such as the tail boom cover have been incorporated.
New versions of all the cabin doors have been produced using bonded assembly with tooled exterior and interior skins that trap all the door furniture. At DC2 twelve doors are being laminated, complete with metallics for handles and signature lighting strip.
A lot of work has been done on the first set of prototype skids, using a very practical cost-effective design with a metallic tube structure and composite cladding that produces a beautiful, sleek line. All the mechanical components used to fit the skids into the fuselage have also been made.
The HX50 has a very distinctive cowled rotor system and a very carefully aerodynamically cowled pylon and mast. Production tooling is underway with parts production due to start in 2 weeks time.
High optical clarity, high quality crashworthy glazing is needed for the impact resistant windows for the HX50. Some of the most difficult to make, the vacuum formed chin windows that sit under the nose of the helicopter, have curvature in both directions, and these have been made successfully. In fact, all the windows have been produced now and are ready to be trimmed on the gantry mill to be dry fitted on the fuselages.
The focus over the last month has been on preparing for the combustion system testing. All the fuel nozzles and air-blast atomisers have been manufactured, and the ignition system is ready. The objective is to demonstrate ignition and flame stability on the combustion test rig.
The team have been laser cutting, rolling, forming and profiling the rings to make up the annular combustor, and the first combustor is well on its way to being built up and welded, ready to go into the test rig.
Over the last few weeks Hill have been undergoing a lot of inspection on their in-house cast super alloy turbine plates for both the gas generator and also the power turbine. This work has been completed and has passed all the inspection criteria.
The first Hill produced block moulded gas generator turbine blades are done, which means that Hill Helicopters can now cast inexpensive super alloy turbine blades in-house and are doing so in readiness for the test engine.
Also underway is the final process development before the engine is made, casting the large casings needed for both the engine and some of the aluminium casings needed for the aircraft gearboxes as well.
In terms of drivetrain and gearbox production, the very first Second Generation rotor mast for HX50 and the very first components for the rotor system have been built. These include the upper and lower clamping plates that clamp the strap packs, providing the flapping and feathering motion of the blades.
“One of the things that’s been particularly exciting over the last couple of weeks is that we’re now deep into building the very first HX50 rotor system”. Jason Hill
The first three swash plate assemblies are also under construction, two for the aircraft and one for a static rig, along with all the flight controls that sit just below the rotor hub.
The HX50’s tail rotor is also being built, with updated aero design and mechanical blade design. At DC2 they have developed all the tooling and jigging necessary to be able to drill off and provide the fixtures for the stator into tail booms 2 and 3, providing everything necessary to get the assembly into the ducts of the two aircraft. The performance of the tail rotor is incredible!
Increasingly regular meetings and engagement with the regulators has been taking place, including a very successful visit from the engine and transmission specialist at the CAA. The meeting went extremely well, and they were very impressed with where Hill is at and what has been accomplished. They were also delighted with the capability developed at DC1 for bearings, gears and the other critical components in the engine and drivetrain.
A lot of detail has been developed on the IPI (Integrated Pilot Interface) with a great deal of work being done recently to refine and optimise the UI (user interface); there’s a simpler menu structure, a clear homepage and an accessible toolbar at the bottom with everything you need just one click away. It’s a cleaner look, and makes it much easier to interact with the puck. This will be available to try out at the December's Global Meetup & Discover Event.
The MFD, the second screen on the co-pilot side of the aircraft, has also received a lot of attention to give it improved functionality. It can receive video feeds or have a duplicate set of flight instruments displayed – a user interface that’s much more convenient for a non-flying passenger is being developed, featuring a big, bold traffic display. Passengers will be able to enjoy intuitive infotainment and climate controls as well as salient flight information.
The cyclic and collective heads don’t just look good, they feel great, with a comfortable grip. Trimming strategies have been developed very successfully, with switch packs and backlighting for the decals. Currently the hardware, the software, and the wiring looms are being integrated, ready for assembly in the aircraft.
All the exterior lighting clusters that will be used to verify all the optical performance of the lights are well into prototyping. There’s a landing light in the nose, and a split anti-collision beacon partly in the nose and partly in the tail to give full 360 degree coverage.
There are contributing landing lights on the wingtip that provide a wider beam, and navigation lights located in the wingtips. All the heat sinks and electronics are packaged within the module and will light up anything you want to -they’re incredibly powerful. One more feature that will be on display at the December event!
“We want to make sure HX50 is distinctive and elegant and lives up to all of your expectations of what you’d get from a premium automotive product, but also that it works really well both as a day and night VFR aircraft” Jason Hill
Intensive work on the Generation Two crew seat has taken it to a new level in terms of the previously demonstrated qualities of the composite structures, crashworthiness and trim, resulting in a really beautiful and comfortable seat. The designers have been creating all the clip-on substrates for trimming pillars, roof linings, chin beams, and all of the other things needed to deliver that plush automotive grade interior that you want for HX50.
We’ve purchased one of the first gantry mills we will use in production, a vast 8.5 metre by 5 metre by 2 metre working envelope gantry. This is the machine that will produce all the production tools and patterns, it will trim windows, doors, and also produce the composite rotor blades.
As far as scaling up to production is concerned, to deal with ongoing planning issues in building our Global HQ our next step is to take on a large rented space that will give us all of the room to complete the development and then move seamlessly into production. The exact site and size will be decided on by December's Global Meetup & Discover Event.
Join Us for the HX50 Open Day
Experience the HX50 up close at our Open Day on Dec 7, 2023, at the iconic IWM Duxford, UK.
Are you interested in the HX50? Book your spot in our group presentation and learn why the HX50 will be better than your current helicopter.
Mischa Gelb (aka Pilot Yellow) and Ruben Dias
Exclusive full details about the HX50 not yet available to the public
30 minutes presentation + Q&A via ZOOM
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