Sikorsky S-72

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NASA RSRA in flight.jpg
The S-72 in flight without a main rotor in 1984
Role Experimental helicopter
Manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft
First flight 12 October 1976
Number built 2

The Sikorsky S-72 was an experimental hybrid helicopter/fixed-wing aircraft developed by helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft.

Design and development[edit]


The Rotor Systems Research Aircraft (RSRA) was developed by Sikorsky for NASA and the Army. The RSRA was developed to allow the inflight measurement of helicopter rotor characteristics. The airframe was developed using an existing Sikorsky S-61 main rotor, an S-61 roller gearbox, and a highly modified Sikorsky S-67 airframe. The RSRA could be fitted with TF34 turbofans and wings to allow compound helicopter configurations to be experimentally investigated at speeds up to 300 knots (560 km/h). In addition, it could fly as a fixed-wing aircraft without a rotor.[1][2][3]

Unique among helicopters of its time, it was fitted with a crew emergency extraction system. This system, when activated, fired explosive bolts that severed the main rotor blades, escape panels were blown off the roof of the aircraft, then the crew was extracted using rockets.[4]

The RSRA was a unique pure research aircraft developed to fill the void between design analysis, wind tunnel testing, and flight results of rotor aircraft. The joint NASA/Army project began in December 1970, first flight on October 12, 1976 with the first of two aircraft arriving from Sikorsky to NASA on February 11, 1979.

One notable test performed with the RSRA was the use of the main and tail rotor load measurement system to determine the vertical drag of the airframe.[5]

In 1981, NASA and the US Army solicited proposals for fitting a four-bladed main rotor to the RSRA. Sikorsky proposed fitting a UH-60A main rotor to the RSRA in their proposal,[6] while Hughes Helicopters proposed fitting a YAH-64A main rotor[7] and Boeing Vertol proposed fitting a YUH-61A or Model 347 (four-blade CH-47) main rotor.[8] In the end, this program did not proceed.

The X-Wing[edit]

Sikorsky S-72 modified as the X-Wing testbed
Rotor Systems Research Aircraft / X-Wing aircraft during a 1987 high speed taxi test

The X-Wing circulation control rotor concept was developed in the mid-1970s by the David W. Taylor Naval Ship Research and Development Center under DARPA funding.[9] In October 1976, Lockheed Corporation won a DARPA contract to develop a large-scale rotor to test the concept.[10]

Intended to take off vertically like a helicopter, the craft's rigid rotors could be stopped in mid-flight to act as X-shaped wings to provide additional lift during forward flight, as well as having more conventional wings. Instead of controlling lift by altering the angle of attack of its blades as more conventional helicopters do, the craft used compressed air fed from the engines and expelled from its blades to generate a virtual wing surface, similar to blown flaps on a conventional platform. Computerized valves made sure the compressed air came from the correct edge of the rotor, the correct edge changing as the rotor rotated.[11]

In late 1983 Sikorsky received a contract to modify one S-72 RSRA into a demonstration testbed for the X-Wing rotor system. The modified airframe was rolled out in 1986, but never flew before the program was cancelled in 1988.[12][13][14]

Specifications (S-72)[edit]

General characteristics


  • Maximum speed: 200 knots (230 mph, 370 km/h
  • Max speed without auxiliary jets: 296 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 140 knots (160 mph, 258 km/h
  • Cruising speed without auxiliary jets: 258 km/h)
  • Rate of climb: 60 ft/min ()

See also[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


  1. ^ A conceptual study of the rotor systems research aircraft. NASA. 1972. hdl:2060/19720025371.[page needed]
  2. ^ Schmidt, Steven A.; Linden, Arthur W. (1972). Rotor systems research aircraft predesign study. Volume 2: Conceptual study report. NASA. hdl:2060/19720025365.[page needed]
  3. ^ Schmidt, Steven A.; Linden, Arthur W. (1972). Rotor systems research aircraft predesign study. Volume 3: Predesign report. NASA. hdl:2060/19720025366.[page needed]
  4. ^ Bement, L. J. (1978). Rotor Systems Research Aircraft Emergency Escape System. 34th Annual National Forum. American Helicopter Society.
  5. ^ Flemming, R. J. (1981). RSRA vertical drag test report. NASA. hdl:2060/19820024465.[page needed]
  6. ^ Davis, S. J. (1981). Predesign study for a modern 4-bladed rotor for RSRA. NASA. hdl:2060/19830004795.[page needed]
  7. ^ Hughes, C. W.; Logan, A. H. (1981). Pre-design study for a modern four-bladed rotor for the Rotor System Research Aircraft (RSRA). NASA. hdl:2060/19820008170.[page needed]
  8. ^ Bishop, H. E.; Burkam, J. E.; Heminway, R. C.; Keys, C. N.; Smith, K. E.; Smith, J. H.; Staley, J. A. (1981). Predesign study for a modern 4-bladed rotor for the NASA rotor systems research aircraft. NASA. hdl:2060/19820008169.[page needed]
  9. ^ Warwick, Graham (August 9, 2008). "X-Wing". DARPA 50th Anniversary Gallery. Aviation Week & Space Technology. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  10. ^ Carlisle, Rodney P. (1998). Where the Fleet Begins: A History of the David Taylor Research Center, 1898–1998. Department of the Navy. pp. 373–9. ISBN 0-160494-427.
  11. ^ Reader, Kenneth R; Wilkerson, Joseph B (2008) [1976]. Circulation Control Applied to a High Speed Helicopter Rotor. David W. Taylor Naval Ship Research and Development Center.[page needed]
  12. ^ "X-Wing scheduled to fly in October" (PDF). Flight International: 18. 22 February 1986.
  13. ^ "X-wing". Retrieved October 26, 2012.[unreliable source?]
  14. ^ "Darpa ditches X-Wing" (PDF). Flight International: 2. 16 January 1988.

External links[edit]