Airbus Unveils the Innovative Racer Aircraft


Business executives and politicians gathered at a helicopter base in France yesterday for the first public unveiling of Airbus’ new Racer aircraft.

At first glance, Racer resembles a conventional helicopter. However, closer inspection reveals its distinctive features: wings and two forward-facing rotors. This design allows it to take off vertically like a helicopter and achieve high speeds akin to a plane.

Racer can exceed speeds of 400 km/h, significantly outpacing civilian helicopters, which typically cruise at around 200 km/h, and even surpassing military helicopters such as the Black Hawk (295 km/h) and Chinook (302 km/h).

The high-speed capabilities of the Racer could enhance response times for search and rescue operations and medical emergencies. Additionally, it has potential applications as an inter-city shuttle.

Building on the hybrid design of the Airbus X3, which set a helicopter speed record of 472 km/h in 2013, Racer aims to bring this “compound” aircraft concept closer to commercial viability.

Balancing Speed with Sustainability

“Speed at any price, without considering economic and environmental impacts, is of no interest to anyone,” said Julien Guitton, the head of Racer’s development.


Racer was developed under the European Clean Sky 2 program, which promotes the creation of low-emission air transport solutions. As part of this initiative, Racer had to demonstrate a 20% reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions compared to a conventional aircraft of the same weight.

Airbus reported that Racer met these targets following its first test flights in April. The aircraft’s wing design, providing 40% of the total lift, reduces the load on the rotor, thereby lowering dynamic loads and vibrations. Additionally, Airbus claims Racer will offer a more comfortable ride than traditional helicopters.

A Glimpse into the Future

Yesterday’s flight demonstration at Airbus Helicopters’ base in Marignane, southern France, was attended by approximately 150 industry executives, politicians, and representatives from the European Union, according to Reuters.

Currently, Racer remains a demonstrator aircraft, with a development cost of €200 million. However, if Airbus garners sufficient interest from potential buyers, it could eventually be produced commercially.

In a related development, US-based Bell Helicopter is working on the Bell V-280 Valor, a tilt-rotor aircraft for the United States Army that can reach speeds of 556 km/h. While the V-280 Valor’s rotors pivot to allow vertical take-off and forward flight, making it similar to a plane, it is not technically a helicopter, leaving Airbus’ speed record intact.