The 51% build takes 10 working days, 10 calendar days, so it runs for 5 days a week.
Not really at the moment. All of the subsequent national approvals will piggyback off the UK approval and the most expedient way to do that is to get a watertight UK approval in the first place, make sure everything’s in order, everybody’s happy, all the compliance showing is done and accepted and then we can go with a nice homogenous set of compliance showing information and certification and take that around to all the other authorities at that point.
If you want to fly a helicopter you need a license, so it’s up to you to decide when you learn to fly. You can order a HX50 without having a license. Some owners have ordered their aircraft without holding a license – in some cases they have a pilot who will fly it for them. If you get trained now you will have had more experience when you receive your helicopter.
The flight training could potentially be done at a different time, ahead of your build slot or in a different aircraft or you can add it to the end of the 2 week course.
From a customer’s perspective, only the owner will have to be there for the 2-week build. From our point of view, that question can’t be answered yet because it depends on how the production facility is set up. We are working on a rule of thumb of one full-time person per aircraft per year. So at 250, we would have 250 full-time employees and it would scale from that.
You’ll come and work alongside our engineers and manufacturing operatives for two weeks to assemble your aircraft, and by doing that you’ll learn all about the engine and the intimate details of how the helicopter works, taking part in what is an educational course to make you into a knowledgeable and responsible owner/operator. Anyone who has the skills to safely pilot and operate a helicopter will be able to successfully come to the build school and build their helicopter.
Yes, it is designed for inexperienced pilots. Everything that has been done in configuring HX50 is about making everything as easy as possible. It has a big power to weight ratio, a benign high inertia rotor system, making it easy to manoeuvre and learn how to do auto-rotations etc, it also behaves well in gusty winds. The HX50 has a 2-axis auto-pilot as standard and the digital cockpit is designed to be as simple and easy to use as possible. There is considerable workload reduction as well as superior crashworthiness from the composite structure, along with the biggest safety margins possible.
Inevitably compliance is the last thing you do, but we’ll be developing compliance showing material and all of the certification materials and type approval materials all the way through the programme. The first of those reports are being prepared at the moment.
The standard warranty is 5000 hours or 5 years, whatever occurs first sooner for an aircraft in private use. We will be offering warranty extensions. We’ve been talking about subscription based maintenance and extended warranties right from the beginning of the programme and that’s very much an avenue that we’re pursuing. It’s very important to us that as these aircraft get older then people that are in the market for second hand or older aircraft can still be assured of a predictable operating cost as the aircraft ages. So the power by the hour system or the annual cap cost maintenance is something that we will be offering.
Our primary focus has been on the hull insurance and that will definitely be available around the world as that will be partly underwritten by us. In terms of liability insurance around the world, 3rd party, we haven’t done anything on that yet but we will also be trying to tie that in with the insurance that we provide so we expect to be in a position where we can provide a single source for coverage around the world.
You’ve got the right to transfer your slot so you wouldn’t lose your deposit, you’d be able to resell it.
The best way is to purchase an aircraft. The people that are engaging with us now – we’re not just selling the finished helicopter, we’re selling the journey to the helicopter. We’re involving the customers in the creation of the helicopter.
No. The HX50 and the HC50 are aircraft that will bring about a revolution in general aviation. People that are comfortable with the balance of risk vs. reward are invited to join us now.
So at the moment the terms are quite simple, if you want to be part of this community we’ve developed globally to bring about this change to the industry, to develop the helicopter that we’ve all always wanted, then the terms are such. It’s a non-refundable deposit.
We tried to show a degree of restraint and under promise and over deliver, so we promised 140 knots because we know we will deliver on that. In fact, 140 knots is not a minimum cruise speed, it is the cruise speed at maximum continuous power and we expect to deliver 140 knots at slightly lower power than that which infers you can go a bit faster.
This is something that we're covering on how we design the inlet system because the engine has quite a contrived inlet path so the simple answer is quite a lot, but we need to deal with subjectively on the flight test program, so the engine is designed to withstand quite heavy rain within the limits of FR flying.
It depends whether you have the 4-axis auto-pilot or not. The inertia that we have in the rotor system is about the same as a Bell Jet Ranger so it’s benign compared to what most people will be used to. One of the benefits of going to a 4-axis auto-pilot is some of the envelope protection and some of the things you can do with RPM management when you have an engine failure. One of the modes we’re looking at with the 4-axis is the initiation of the collective down and the cyclic flare on the pilot’s behalf. It can be overridden but those kinds of things are being worked into some of the modes of the 4 axis system so it will be very, very benign.
It will be about 1,000 hours before it goes into the flying prototype because the flying prototype does most of its work in the first couple of hundred hours. Not a great deal to get us up and moving so we can de-couple the two programs and keep moving forward at pace. We will then continue bench testing and take the engines all the way to and past their anticipated overhaul life as fast as possible and that will be done on multiple engines.
The main rotor gearbox and the main engine gearbox have oil coolers, a forced lubrication system on the gearbox, and that handles the vast majority of the heat extraction from the mechanical components. The reason that titanium is used in the mast is for its fatigue properties.
Being able to power a helicopter electrically would have big advantages and Hill will be looking at that possibility, including a hybrid engine, when the time is right, and the technology has advanced sufficiently. Meanwhile it is preferable to have a gas turbine engine that is able to run on sustainable fuels and biofuels. We can deliver substantial carbon neutrality with the conventional mechanical drive train we have at present.
In terms of the fuel consumption, it’s likely to require less than 400 hp to deliver the 140 knot cruise in which case yes, you can expect to have a higher range than what we’re talking about at the moment. In terms of the out and out fuel consumption of the engine, when that engine is delivering 400 hp I wouldn’t expect the fuel consumption to be any better than what we’ve declared.
The pilot will ordinarily fly the aircraft from the right seat and there are no movable weights. HX50 has an active fuel system so there’s a trimmer tank in the nose that provides for exceptional CG range so you can load this aircraft up with anything from a 70 kg solo pilot with a lot of bags in the back through to one 95 kg passenger in each of the five seats and still be within normal operating range for CG.
A 175 gallon fuel tank at approximate current prices in the US of about $4.50 a gallon would make it about US$785. (For most private owners of aircraft the fuel cost is the least of your worries. It’s the smallest of the costs that you have to manage. We are making a very fuel efficient engine but power is more important for most of our owners than a lower fuel bill).
It’s a five hour fuel tank, so the tank has been sized for five hours at maximum continuous power.
Work on three prototypes that should be flying for testing purposes in 2023 is underway. In terms of performance specs the expected results have been calculated with generous margins in place so that there is a high probability the results will be met, if not exceeded.
A long time – endurance flying is about 8 hours if you are carrying 3 people.
Electric motors have been integrated into each of the rear wheels, so that when the aircraft is on the ground you can drive it into your hangar under electric power with the engine shut down. The system can be controlled from within the cockpit or from the ground via a smartphone app.
The Helimove option would add about 15 kg.
Yes, we will do a factory-approved ferry tank towards the end of the programme. But you already have a 5 hour fuel tank that if you fly at the best range will do much better than the figures we are openly declaring. It can already do 700 miles.
If you choose the 4-axis auto-pilot option, it will.
All the standard equipment on the options list will involve antennas that are embedded within the airframe.
If you have the traffic option it will report other aircraft as all traffic systems do. Regarding showing large birds, there are some vision systems being developed but they are in the very early stages.
Not electro chromatically. The roof lights and the rear windows are all tinted. There’s less of a tint on the pilot’s windows and the windshield. They’re not adjustable. All of the windows have UV, IR coatings to reduce the amount of heat and UV radiation that gets through. Those are all passive coatings so they’re set at a specific level.
Wire data bases are based on data bases that are pulled together from all sorts of natural infrastructure providers, so we are reliant on data bases that we get from Jefferson etc. to provide that data, so you can’t rely on the wire data base as an absolute carte blanche protection, it’s not a wire detection system. It’s just a wire awareness tool for wires that we physically know are there, so as the pilot you still have to be responsible for seeing and avoiding those sorts of hazards.
There’s an integrated infotainment system which will allow you to share any content that you have on your iPad or any content that you’ve got on your phone through the system and that will be piped around the aircraft via the iPad. That includes music, video content, and we’ve also got a system that manages the cameras around the aircraft so on the second screen if you’re not a flying front seat passenger you can use some of the rear view or front view cameras. It also manages your phone integration so you can make and receive phone calls where local legislation allows.
Yes, the extent to which this will happen is subject to detailed development. There are certain systems that are non flight critical, certain things we have to lock down.
The whole point of putting the iPad in the centre of the cockpit was that we could get air-conditioning to it. It’s easy to reach, easy to see and we can get air-conditioning to it so it’s powered and cooled.
We aim to keep it simple, provide power, provide connectivity, and just let people use their individual devices.
The cyclic and collective are very conventional. On the cyclic there’s a push to talk trigger, an auto-pilot trim switch, an auto-pilot off, a plus and minus toggle switch that allows you to scroll through memory channels for the radio and your conventional flip switch to turn stand-by into active. On the collective there isn’t a twist grip because it’s an electronically controlled engine so you have a fly and idle button and a hydraulics off button and landing lights button, both toggle switches, so very simple, very intuitive.
Experimental Category / Future Certification
The limitations that apply to these aircraft are based on the basis for initial airworthiness. In our case the basis for initial airworthiness is EASA, CS Part 27 or FAR Part 27 so if you deliver an aircraft with the same certification basis as a fully certified aircraft and develop it with a design approved organisation, produce it in a production approved organisation, then you can quite easily justify that it should have the operating privileges of an aircraft that’s come out of that environment. That’s how we do it.
It depends where you are in the world. In the UK, as it stands, amateur built helicopters are explicitly excluded from being able to do PPL training on. This is because there isn’t an amateur built helicopter available in the UK that meets the airworthiness codes to allow that to happen. The document that defines what privileges permit to fly aircraft can have in the UK says that you can do self-fly hire and some flight training which you get when you meet an acceptable level of airworthiness. HX50 will meet that standard but to have full privileges you will have to wait for HC50.
No, at least not initially. Making a helicopter IFR is a very big deal. You have to deal with de-icing, stability and a much more complicated hydraulics system, much more avionics, duel-electrical system and all sorts of other stuff. And you are then making a helicopter into an airplane, because you have to let down at an airport. We may do it in the future, but it requires a lot of technology. Ours is a VFR day and night helicopter.
The experimental system in the US is about the most flexible in the world with very few restrictions. The main advantage is the freedom of owning an experimental aircraft and the reduced burden for maintaining it. The way we are handling operating privileges is the same in the US as it is in the UK in that the privileges that you are afforded with any kind of aircraft are based on what the basis for initial airworthiness is.
If you develop an aircraft and show it to meet the fully authorised standards, your privileges will be based on that. The restrictions that some territories place on experimental or amateur built aircraft are very much about the lower level of oversight that the authorities provide to allow people to build aircraft at home. If you are building an aircraft to the certified standards in an approved factory with a certified organisation the aircraft will carry those privileges. The only big proviso is the fact that we’ve got 51% involvement from the owners which means that you can’t use it commercially.
We’ll have to do it at first purely because there won’t be enough machines out there so PP4 and PP5 are intended for demo flights, type ratings, early training of pilots, instructors and examiners but our intention is to push that out everywhere as fast as we can. So a lot of the early training, other than for early owners, will be for trainers and instructors around the world.
The HX50 cannot be used for commercial operations, or hire and reward or flight training.
The HC50 will be entirely factory built in the same premises as the HX50, without the participation of the owner; it will have a 1,000 hour, 2-year warranty, and there will be no restrictions on its use for commercial operation. Due to the more costly certification process for the HC50, it will be priced higher than the HX50.
It should be about the same, the parts should be priced the same, the insurance will be more expensive for the HC50 because of the nature of the operation, and they will fly more hours so will need more maintenance.
The objective of all the testing we do on HX50 is that it will carry over directly so there’s nothing lower grade about HX50 compared to HC50.
Hill Helicopters is now actively working on building components of the engine, the airframe, gearboxes etc. What you start with building is systems. You need to first flesh out all the issues that you have in individual systems. Then you move on to subsystems, so you assemble and test subsystems and flesh out all the issues that you have in those. Then you assemble and test the ground running prototypes. This will happen in 2023. We will start showing you many more physical things being built and tested over the coming few months. Recent updates are being documented in videos on the Journey to HX50 page.
The prototypes are scheduled to fly by the end of 2023. On the second half of 2024 production and first deliveries of the HX50 will start.
There shouldn’t be any differences. There will be differences between the very early prototypes as we iron out the problems in the development. But when we get to PP4 and PP5 those should be production representative and thereafter the aircraft should be mature.
Yes, we have. We’re entering a phase of the programme now where there are more external factors, availability of materials, etc. We’re starting to ramp up the work force so the availability of people to actually do the shop floor work can have an impact. But fundamentally in terms of the core engineering I’m pretty much exactly where I expected to be by this point.
The vertical integration strategy is absolutely vital to what we’re doing here. What we’ve found is that the aerospace supply chain is very much geared to servicing the needs of major commercial aircraft manufacturers and military contractors and those platforms that have very high-ticket prices can afford to support higher part costs from their sub-contractors and their suppliers. When you scale it down to general aviation and you’re trying to pitch an aircraft at broadly the same price as a very high-end super car, then those kinds of margins can’t be supported. Although we have more work to do now in terms of process development and manufacturing development and upfront tooling costs, it means we have complete control of our unit prices and we get to add the most value that we possibly can to the aircraft so we only bring raw material in the front door, we add the most value, and then we send a premium product out the front door.
We use a lot of state-of-the-art CNC machinery, although the prototype composite stuff is quite manual, but the production of the composites such as fabric cutting, fabric kitting, fabric handling, mould manipulation, all those things will be highly optimised and automated. We use the latest automation to make sure the processes are streamlined, as organised and repeatable as possible so this is a very modern way to build a helicopter.
Yes, to the greatest extent possible. With the third scale model which will have a high-grade finish, we will look at paint finishes and do some environmental testing and accelerated life testing for that and for other purposes.
The fuel tanks will have bladders. They have a carbon fibre shell that is an integral part of the airframe which then contains a bladder, and then within the bladder we put a foam product that helps avoid sloshing. And that applies to both the main tank which is behind the aft cabin bulkhead and the trimmer tank in the nose of the aircraft. In terms of the trim, that’s open at the moment.
HX50 and HC50 are currently in development. Our timeline is that we will have an engine first run and a fuselage in 2022. The prototypes are scheduled to fly by the end of 2023. On the second half of 2024 production and first deliveries of the HX50 will start.
The prototypes are scheduled to fly by the end of 2023. On the second half of 2024 production and first deliveries of the HX50 will start.
The factory that is being developed right now will have a peak capacity in its initial format of up to 1,000 a year. We’re starting with 250 a year in the first year and then going up to 500 per year.
When you buy an HX50 you are allowed to buy a position on the HC50 version list at a very special price that is exclusive for HX50 owners. After you order an HX50 you have up to 30 days to buy any number of HC versions at £575,000, which is a £150,000 discount, with a £50,000 deposit.
We’ve got a very intimate knowledge of what it costs to build these parts, the levels of investment that are required to get into production, and we’ve also got comparators for what other manufacturers produce at and what we know the aircraft can be produced for because other people are doing it.
And in terms of that we’ve also designed an aircraft that’s very production oriented.
So we’re sitting comfortably in between some of the other helicopters and aircraft of similar size. We know that we can hit the price point.
If you are comfortable buying now, you will get the aircraft at a lower price, and you will experience the journey. You will also get a relatively early serial number.
It won’t affect pricing because vertical integration means that Hill are bringing in raw materials at their lowest value point and manufacturing components in-house. There is always some fluctuation in raw material prices, but it won’t affect the purchase price that has been set.
Yes, you can use Coin Corner that will accept Bitcoin and exchange your payment into pounds sterling.
The team at Hill is constantly growing. We currently have a team over 65 but this number is constantly increasing.
The aircraft will be fully digitally documented. You will have a full build log of the helicopter.
The maintenance will be delivered by your local service operators, so we will operate in the same way as a lot of car dealers do in that there will be book times for certain things, certain approved procedures. There will be a ready supply of parts and in the early years in particular it will be a case of swop the part and send it back to us and we’ll send you a new one to keep things simple. Hill Helicopters doen’t want lots of complex parts opened in the field so it will be a very simple process delivered by people you trust on the ground in your country.
Hill will carry a large parts stock as we roll out to a distributor model in the future and large parts stocks will be also carried by the distributors. This is all about the customers. We have control, we own everything, so we are not held to ransom for expensive parts from other companies. We make the parts as inexpensively as we can, carry stock here and in the other territories around the world that we sell in. So, expect better from us.
A variety of ways depending on the location in the aircraft. For the metallics that are built into the components to connect the transmission etc. all of those metallic components are actually embedded in glass fibre before they get infused into the cockpit. There’s a protective layer of glass fibres that are non-conductive to act as an insulating barrier around those parts. There are also more conventional methods for dealing with similar metals throughout the engine and the airframe.
There is no de-icing system so you have to avoid icing conditions but the HX50 will be approved for temperatures down to minus 30 degrees C. Components are being developed and will be tested in all conditions including extreme cold.
Yes, the HX50 is being developed to resist corrosion, rust, etc. to the very high standards demanded by regulations and will undergo rigorous testing worldwide in extreme weather conditions. Flight controls will be sealed, coatings will be used, magnesium will not be used. There will be a careful selection of materials, composites and protection on the blades.
Yes. Vertical integration is quite a headache because it massively increases the amount of work and infrastructure you have to have in place to be able to get into production, but once you’re there it means that all of your spare parts are essentially available to you at the lowest price point possible. And we have complete control over when we make them and how much stock we carry so we will carry a very significant amount of spares. As the aircraft rollout continues we’ll hold spares in each of the major territories or our dealership network will hold spares so that we can get parts to aircraft that are down as fast as possible.
Every aircraft is sold with a maintenance type rating course so whoever your mechanic is in your local area you can bring them to the factory as part of your purchase price . We’ll train and equip them to be able to look after the aircraft domestically and then you’ve got the kind of support you need right on the doorstep. That mechanic will also have access to all of our technical support back at the factory so he gets all of our engineers right behind him to make sure your machine is properly supported. As we get more aircraft into the field there will be more distributor based support, but for initial rollout that’s how it will work.
No. You would have to cross a threshold. But we will have to develop exactly what the threshold is, because we have to do a lot of fatigue testing to prove that out. One of the benefits of carbon fibre structures is that they’ve got lots of discrete load paths within the structure so they are inherently more resilient to fatigue than conventional metallic materials, so we can work with that.
It will all be digital.
They will be contained to some extent but you need the carbon fibre bits to fly around otherwise you run the risk of packing the container that you’re trying to contain them in and preventing the anvil that drives down and crushes the tube from moving in a predictable fashion so we do need to eject that stuff out of the way but it should be caught by some of the seat upholstery and all of those sorts of things.
We essentially comply with the Part 29 Transport Category regulations for bird strike, so it meets the same requirements as all the big aircrafts. That is about a 2 kg bird at 200 knots.
We’re looking at two solutions at the moment, a stainless steel erosion shield and a nickel erosion shield so ideally we would stick to the stainless steel but we might for forming reasons end up using nickel around the tips of the main rotor blades just because of forming restraints.
Many of these things have technical merit and we will consider them in due course. The performance we have from our current composite materials, both fibres and resin are more than sufficient to meet the performance and durability requirements for the HX50. As with any commercial engineering development programme the most important criteria required to ensure you successfully deliver a product to market is knowing when to stop innovating and start producing the product.
When the helicopter is on the ground with doors open it should be able to withstand winds of up to 45 knots.
There will be a max speed with doors off but it hasn’t been set yet – it may be around the 100 knot mark. It has to be determined with flight testing. Structurally there isn’t a problem that is likely to impact the handling qualities.
It has to go to a big electrical discharge facility and they zap it. It’s not perfectly representative of a real lightning strike but there are standard tests that have to be done.
300 pounds or 136 kg is standard – we do have some particular cases where customers are a bit over that so we have to capture that and make sure there is a margin beyond that.
Yes, the front seats can be adjusted to go forward and back to allow for people of different heights. Seats can move forward by 150 mm and up by 50 mm, pedals can be moved back and up. This means that field of view is maintained for all pilots and there is a full range of travel on flight controls for all pilot sizes.
Wheels or Skids
Landing on hard sand, in a wet field, on dry sand should be OK – a muddy field or soft snow could cause a problem. For these kinds of conditions the wheels can be fitted with “bear paws” and the aircraft flown with the undercarriage down.
The fixed skids are slightly lighter than wheels but you can expect to lose approximately 15kts of speed off the 140kts cruise speed. Unfortunately 30% of your drag comes from the undercarriage so it has to come with a major penalty. This is why the helicopter was designed with the wheeled retractable landing gear so that you wouldn't have that drag and therefore get a much faster helicopter.
No, they are the same price.
The wheeled landing gear is indeed retractable, the fixed skid undercarriage is not.
You have to consult your local regulator and you have to consider the location for the helipad as much as the performance of the aircraft. 12 ft x 12 ft would probably be OK for most purposes. (Other)
The closest ones are probably the Gazelle and the EC120 but with slightly easier tail rotor handling characteristics so in terms of power perhaps the Gazelle, in terms of the hub design and the flight dynamics perhaps more akin to the 120 with the exception of the tail rotor.
Some control cables will be outsourced, the sprag clutch, the tyres. All of the structure, all of the mechanicals, all of the rotor system, windows, all are manufactured in-house. We don’t make LCD screens or microchips, but if it’s mechanical or aeronautical we make nearly all of it.
We would love to do it, but not now. It would be a real value-add to the Helimove, and to the user interface for landing in confined areas but that’s a whole development project in its own right.
In terms of the fuselage there’s some sound insulation being developed into the interior trim materials. There’s obviously a firewall around the engine bay to protect it as per the requirements. There will be a form of acoustic silencer on the compressor. We’re toying with the idea of trying to build something into the exhaust for the engine but that’s unlikely at this stage. It’s a helicopter and we have to manage weight very carefully or we just eat into that useful payload. The cabin will be on a par of what you’re used to in terms of light helicopters with a reasonable interior.
Yes, the system is designed for remote power. You can power it with 220 volts. There are some limits to what electrical systems you can power when that is going on because there’s a limit to the juice you can physically get out of a conventional domestic socket so we’re looking at what it’s practical to deliver but basic cabin heating would be fine. Air conditioning is more of a challenge to have that on long-term.
That comes down to a trade-off between the stiffness of the seals and the amount of material you want to put into the door to make sure that the door is physically stiff enough to compress the seals without deforming too much. There’s all sorts of juggling we have to do to balance all of those parameters but fundamentally yes the doors will close flush. We’re using some of the automotive tricks of the trade creating under flush edges to make sure the small misalignments inevitable in any built artefact are unperceivable. So yes you’ll have that smooth exterior body.
Yes, there is a rotor brake. There’s a disc type brake that’s fitted to all aircraft as standard with a control for it in the roof panel.
Right behind the cabin bulkhead. There’s the monolage, then there’s an aft bulkhead that mounts the rear seats, and then there’s a second bulkhead that creates the baggage bay and the fuel tank is in between there, and then there’s a small trimmer tank that’s located in the nose that we use to trim the fuel CG.
Eventually there will be a pilot operating handbook, a parts catalogue, a maintenance manual and a training manual but these are not available yet.
Yes, the controls and cyclic can be removed easily if required.