The Future Is Now: We Got a Closer Look at Bell’s V-280 Valor Prototype

    Robert Beckhusen


    The V-280 will travel twice as far and 150 miles faster than the UH-60, at a cost of what Bell expects to be $ 30 million instead of the Black Hawk’s $ 20 million. 

    On June 18, 2018, Bell’s V-280 Valor prototype took off for its first public demonstration, six months after its first flight. It’s another, early glimpse at the tiltrotor aircraft that could one day replace a significant portion of the U.S. military’s UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, among other aircraft.

    The Valor, however, would fly much farther and faster than the Black Hawk thanks to its design, as the V-280 — similar the V-22 Osprey — takes off and lands like a helicopter but flies like an airplane. It’s all part of the Pentagon’s Future Vertical Lift program, which has Bell’s Valor competing with Boeing and Sikorsky’s twin-propeller SB-1 Defiant helicopter, and which ultimately aims to produce a family of helicopters and/or tiltrotors in the 2030s for attack, reconnaissance, medium-lift and for hauling troops into battle.

    During the V-280 flight on June 18, the sleek — even menacing-looking — aircraft made two 200-mile-per-hour passes over Bell’s tiltrotor assembly plant in cruise mode with its rotors in the forward position, passing 38 total flight hours since December 2017. Soon, Bell wants to increase the prototype’s speed in the coming months to more than 320 miles per hour.

    Before landing, the test pilots hovered the tiltrotor — painted black — and, like a dance, tilted the wings from side to side.

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