- McDonnell XV-1
XV-1 Role Compound helicopter Manufacturer McDonnell Aircraft First flight 14 July 1954 Number built 2
The McDonnell XV-1 was an experimental compound helicopter, designated as a convertiplane, developed for a joint research program between the United States Air Force and the United States Army to explore technologies to develop an aircraft that could take off and land like a helicopter but fly at faster airspeeds, similar to a conventional airplane. The XV-1 would reach a speed of 200 mph (322 km/h), faster than any previous rotorcraft, but the program was terminated due to the complexity of the technology which gave only a modest gain in performance.
In 1951, the Air Force announced a competition to develop a compound helicopter, an aircraft that could take off and land vertically, like a helicopter, but could cruise at higher airspeeds than conventional helicopters. The joint research program was being conducted by the Air Force's Research and Development Command and the Army's Transportation Corps. Bell Aircraft submitted the design for the XV-3, Sikorsky Aircraft submitted the S-57, a retracting rotor design, and McDonnell submitted a design modified from its Model M-28 design.
On 20 June 1951, the Air Force and Army signed a Letter of Intent with McDonnell to award a contract to develop an aircraft based on their design. McDonnell benefited from previous design work on the Model M-28 and had a complete mock-up ready for inspection by the Army and Air Force by November 1951. McDonnell was given approval to begin fabrication of what was then designated the XL-25 ("L" for Liaison). As the aircraft was being constructed, the designation was changed to a helicopter designation, the XH-35. Finally, the aircraft became the first vehicle in the convertiplane series as the XV-1.
The basic airframe came from an early post-World War II commercial airplane program for a four-place airplane in the Bonanza and Navion class. McDonnell enlisted Friedrich von Doblhoff, the Austrian helicopter designer of the WNF 342, to provide technical direction on developing the rotor system. After 22 months of fabrication, the first aircraft (serial 53-4016) was ready for flight testing by early 1954.
Built mostly from aluminum, the XV-1 fuselage consisted of a streamlined tube mounted on skid landing gear, with a rear-mounted engine and a pusher propeller. It also had high aspect ratio, tapered, stub wings mounted high on the fuselage. In turn, twin tailbooms and twin vertical surfaces, inter-connected by a horizontal stabilizer elevator, were mounted to the wings. A three-bladed main rotor powered by blade tip pressure jets was mounted on top of the fuselage, above the wing roots.
The convertiplane featured a single Continental-built R-975 radial piston engine that powered twin air compressors. The compressors pumped air via ducts to the main rotor for vertical flight, while the engine drove the two-bladed pusher propeller for horizontal flight. During forward flight the main rotor is permitted to autorotate, which provides some additional lift.
The cabin was covered almost entirely with Plexiglas windows providing visibility in all directions, except directly underneath the aircraft. The cockpit consisted of tandem pilot and copilot stations, or the aircraft could accommodate a pilot and three passengers, or a pilot and two stretchers.
The XV-1 began tethered hovering flight tests on 11 February 1954, with test pilot John R. Noll. The "tether" was lead weights intended to keep the aircraft in ground effect until issues with the rotor's tip-jet propulsion system were solved. On 14 July 1954, the lead weights were removed and the XV-1 conducted its first free hovering flight. As flight testing continued, McDonnell completed the second machine (s/n 53-4017).
Ship number two was modified from the original XV-1 in an attempt to reduce parasitic drag during high-speed forward flight. To achieve this end, the rotor pylon was reduced and the undercarriage was streamlined as well as strengthened. The second XV-1 also featured two small tail rotors mounted on the outboard side, at the end of each tailboom. These were a result of the hover test flights by Noll who remarked on the lack of yaw authority. The original XV-1 would later be modified with the tail rotors.
By the spring of 1955, the second XV-1 was ready to join the flight program. On 29 April 1955, the XV-1 made its first transition from vertical to horizontal flight, and on 10 October 1955, the second XV-1 became the first rotorcraft to exceed 200 mph (322 km/h), nearly 45 mph (72 km/h) faster than the helicopter speed record at the time. After three years and nearly 600 hours between the two aircraft, the XV-1 contract was canceled in 1957.
Ultimately, it was determined that the XV-1's convertiplane configuration was too complex for the small advantages gained over conventional helicopters. The piston engine could not produce enough power to optimize the design advantages. Technological advances in conventional helicopter rotor design and engines in the following years would eventually negate the XV-1's performance margin. McDonnell would try to capitalize on the tip-jet rotor technology with a small crane helicopter design, designated Model 120 and first flown on 13 November 1957.
The Army retained 53-4016, which was eventually handed over to the United States Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Alabama. 53-4017, the record-setting, second prototype, was donated by the Army to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. in 1964.
Data from Harding
- Crew: One (pilot)
- Capacity: two passengers, or two litters
- Length: 50 ft 5 in (15.37 m)
- Wingspan: 26 ft 0 in (7.92 m)
- Empty weight: 4,277 lb (1,940 kg)
- Gross weight: 5,505 lb (2,497 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Continental R-975-19 radial piston engine, 525 hp (391 kW)
- Main rotor diameter: 31 ft (9.4 m)
- Maximum speed: 203 mph (327 km/h; 176 kn)
- Cruise speed: 138 mph (120 kn; 222 km/h)
- Range: 593 mi (515 nmi; 954 km)
- Service ceiling: 19,800 ft (6,035 m)
- Rate of climb: 1,300 ft/min (6.6 m/s)
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Connor, R. and R. E. Lee. McDonnell XV-1 Convertiplane. 24 September 2001. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC. Accessed 4 December 2007.
- Donald, David. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5.
- Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920: Volume II. London: Putnam, 1997. ISBN 0851778275.
- Harding, Stephen. U.S. Army Aircraft Since 1947 An Illustrated Reference. Schiffer military/aviation history. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Pub, 1997. ISBN 076430190X.
- Markman, Steve, and William G. Holder. Straight Up A History of Vertical Flight. Schiffer military/aviation history. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Pub, 2000. ISBN 0764312049.
- McDonnell XV-1 XV-1 Convertiplane on Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum' site
- XV-1 page on GlobalSecurity.org
- XV-1 page on vstol.org
- Early McDonnell Helicopters on AirandSpaceMuseum.org
McDonnell and McDonnell Douglas military aircraft and spacecraft FightersUSAAF/US Air ForceUS Navy/USMCExportLicensed AttackUS Navy/USMC TrainersUS Navy TransportsUS Air ForceUS NavyLicensed HelicoptersUS Army/US Air ForceUS Navy
XHJH · XHCH · XHRHExport
Drones (UAVs)US Navy
ExperimentalUS Army/US Air Force SpacecraftNASAUS Air Force USAF convertiplane designations
XV-1 • XV-2 • XV-3
USAAC/USAAF/USAF/Joint Service Helicopter designations 1941–Numerical sequence used by USAAC/USAAF/USAF 1941–Present; US Army 1948–1956 and 1962–present; US Navy 1962–present Main sequence
Prefix R-, 1941–1948
Prefix H-, 1948–1962
H- with a mission prefix 1962–present
R-1 • R-2 • R-3 • R-4 • R-5/H-5 • R-6/H-6 • R-7 • R-8 • R-9/H-9 • R-10/H-10 • R-11/H-11 • R-12/H-12 • R-13/H-13/OH-13/UH-13J • R-14 • R-15/H-15 • R-16/H-16 • H-17 • H-18 • H-19/UH-19 • H-20 • H-21/CH-21 • H-22 • H-23/OH-23 • H-24 • H-25/UH-25 • XH-26 • H-27 • H-28 • H-29 • H-30 • H-31 • H-32 • H-33 • H-34/CH-34 • H-35 • (H-36 not assigned) • H-37/CH-37 • (H-38 not assigned) • XH-39 • H-40 • H-41 • H-42 • H-43/HH-43 • (H-44 and H-45 not assigned) • CH-46/HH-46 • CH-47 • UH-48 • H-49 • QH-50 • XH-51 • HH-52 • CH-53/HH-53/MH-53 • CH-54 • TH-55 • AH-56 • TH-57 • OH-58 • XH-59 • UH-60/SH-60/HH-60 • YUH-61 • XCH-62 • YAH-63 • AH-64 • HH-65 • RAH-66 • TH-67 • MH-68 • (H-69 not assigned) • ARH-70 • VH-71 • UH-72
reusing old numbers
USAAF/USAF liaison aircraft Lists relating to aviation General Military Accidents/incidents Records
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