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Rotor Systems Research Aircraft (RSRA) X-Wing aircraft

Rotor Systems Research Aircraft (RSRA) X-Wing aircraft

Rotor Systems Research Aircraft (RSRA) X-Wing aircraft

Over the years aviation companies, driven by unusual design briefs from government organizations like NASA and the Military, have produced some rather peculiar aircraft. However the X-Wing from the 1980s is one of the most bizarre.

The aircraft's full name is the Rotor Systems Research Aircraft (RSRA) X-Wing, but we'll just stick with X-Wing.

The program started back in the 1970s as part of a research project to try and increase the speed, reliability, comfort and safety of helicopters. Essentially it sought to combine the vertical lift and hovering capabilities of a helicopter with the higher cruising speed of a fixed-wing aircraft.

Sikorsky Aircraft Division of United Technologies Laboratories were commissioned to build two X-Wing prototypes, which they did, before sending them to Langley Research Center for initial evaluation. Soon after the aircraft were moved to the NASA Ames Research Center in California for more in-depth testing by both NASA and the US Army.

These tests, flown by Ames pilot G. Warren Hall and Army Major (soon promoted to Lt. Col.) Patrick Morris, began in May and continued until October 1984, when the X-Wing returned to Ames.

Using data from the 1984 flights, the engineers at Sikorsky developed the second aircraft to provide in-flight investigation and verification of new helicopter rotor-system concepts and supporting technology. The X-Wing could be configured to fly as an airplane with fixed wings, as a helicopter, or as a compound vehicle that could transition between the two configurations.

The modified X-Wing aircraft was delivered to Ames-Dryden by Sikorsky Aircraft on 25 September 1986. Following taxi tests, initial flights in the aircraft mode without main rotors attached took place at Dryden in December 1987. Ames research pilot G. Warren Hall and Sikorsky’s W. Richard Faull were the pilots. The contract with Sikorsky ended that month, and the program ended in January 1988.

Considering the huge potential for the X-Wing and the wide range of roles it could have fulfilled, it's amazing and quite unfortunate that the project was never taken any further than the prototype stage.

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