As we approach the next HX50 Monthly Update & AMA, it's a good time to delve into the details of all the progress made on the HX50 in August.
From the last update, the significant news is that the push towards the prototypes is advancing right on schedule. Substantial progress has been made in manufacturing components for the HX50 and thoroughly testing them.
2 Oct 2023
Fuselage Six (wheels) and Fuselage Seven (skids) are nearing completion and are benefiting from test enhancements. For example, the slight variation in the upward view angle of the fuselage observed in the human factors testing was modified for brow line development.
Hill's approach of designing in parallel with development is paying off.
A remarkable amount has been achieved with the doors, tooling approaches, and laminating processes, which have all been tested, resulting in an elegant automotive fit and finish.
Additionally, optically perfect glazing has been produced in house for the impact resistant windows.
“I spend most of my life dealing with the minutiae of tiny little details .... and every once in a while something happens out here on the shop floor and it makes you realise, we’re getting there ... and one of those moments was when we first got to put the first glazed panels in.” - Jason Hill
Another major achievement has been getting the first two structurally representative tail booms built – with a full set of production tools completed and a greatly improved surface finish making it easier to paint. And it’s amazingly light – currently 15 kg.
All the manufacturing processes have been developed with the design exercise, and the actual parts for the test engine are being produced.
There is a huge effort going on to get the gas generator for the engine built, with the combustor the first part to be tested, followed by the construction of an electrical test bench for the motor generator unit.
Development of the turbine blade casting process has been a big success - this is an area that is make or break in terms of the viability of delivering a cost effective turbine engine. These blades require an oxygen-free environment, and we've devised an innovative method that eliminates the need for expensive infrastructure.
In addition to the turbine blades the first turbine disc has been produced out of superalloy material for the first test engine.
In addition to the compressor, turbine disc and turbine blades, the test combustor has been released and is now in production. The team is currently meeting the challenge of drilling 2500 precision holes in the combustor needed to mix the air and the fuel directly on the five axis machine.
In the drive train production process 30 different steps are needed to produce the gears to the quality needed, then to inspect and qualify them for aerospace application.
The first 3 drive trains for the GT50 and HX50 are now being produced, the final one of which will be used for testing and the first flight.
The main rotor system has to have both a compact aerodynamic design and conventional low risk mechanical elements – what is needed is absolute reliability and benign handling qualities. This is coming along well as the structural dynamics of the blades are optimised before being released for tooling.
“Our rotor system is the greatest hits of all of the things that have been shown to work really well over the decades gone by.” - Jason Hill
Big progress has been made in this area, with the target hardware now driving the target screen by the correct communications protocol. The PFD screen is now running on the actual target screen and the audio panel is being integrated, as well as the transponder, comm and GPS.
Hill’s engineers are working on other screens and graphical details that will be presented during startup and the various stages of the operation of the Hill Digital Cockpit.
One new area of UI development that’s had a lot of attention is the user interface and user experience for the Input Panel Interface (IPI). There is now a simplified menu structure with a single home screen where everything you need to get to is presented cleanly and elegantly.
The team is now concentrating closely on the physical aspects of the instrument console, in particular the start panel, along with further development of cooling vents, iPad mounting detail and ski ramp trim in terms of ergonomics and aesthetics.
“I know you’re very used to me talking about composites and gears and engines and gears and that sort of stuff. The truth is that without all of the software and without all of the electronic components, the HX50 would just be an ornament." - Jason Hill
The control algorithms developed at Hill are working and delivering the levels of power conditioning required. Now the PCBs can be miniaturised to get the size and the weight down, and the efficiency up, in order to package and install components in the helicopter.
A lot of components for the wheeled undercarriage system have been turned out in the last month, including the first complete set of wheels for the HX50.
“From across the programme, DC One, DC Two, and DC Three, everybody’s flat out producing the components to get these first demonstration aircraft together.” - Jason Hill
Stay tuned and join us on the next HX50 Monthly Update and AMA for more updates as we move closer to our goal of bringing the HX50 to life.
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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