A joint program for designing and developing the most interesting and rare aircraft of all times was initiated between NASA, DARPA, the U.S Navy, and Sikorsky in the 1970s. The aircraft known as Sikorsky X-Wing was designed to integrate the best features of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to make the best of both.
The research, designing, development, technical innovations, and successful tests for the program went on for a span of five years, but unfortunately, got canceled in its final stages. The designed Sikorsky X-Wing was a perfect mix of the fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and made a flight machine of its own class. However, it only got to fly in its testing stages.
The following years saw the development of a small test vehicle developed and trialed at NASA’s Ames wind tunnel. During these tests, the first model was put through its paces over a span of seven weeks. During these trials, fixed-wing, helicopter, and conversion flight were analyzed.
Later, automatic rotor stop and start tests were carried out in abundance, at a speed of 180 knots, and appeared promising. These new tests were carried out with NASA onboard. The successful results encouraged a mutual consensus on building a large-scale working model.
In the 1980s, the Sikorsky seemed promising to be deployed for development aid works. At that time, it was the foremost helicopter design in the country. Hence, its development was encouraged, and decisions were made to go ahead with the program.
The Sikorsky S-72 RSRA testbed helicopter was developed with a core purpose to test the newly developed rotor blade systems. The aircraft appeared as a perfect testbed for going ahead with the X-Wing program.
Sikorsky S-72 was a rare design aircraft with a transformable incidence wing. Its foremost purpose was to provide offload and overload for helicopters’ engine lifting needs. These kinds of wings can be tilted at varying angles for taking-off and landing.
The developers of the X-Wing didn’t conceive the aircraft as a replacement for helicopters. Rather they predicted it to be an advanced aircraft that would have a low-speed efficiency and maneuverability of helicopters along with the high-cruising speeds of aircraft.
Many years of development finally saw Sikorsky overcoming many technical issues. The novel aircraft came close to actually flying in normal operations. However, history knows if the novel aircraft program would have been a success, but it sure is a shame to know that it failed due to failed finances for the program and not on technical grounds.
The Sikorsky aircraft program didn’t reach a successful end. However, the extensive research and development gave us bearingless composite rotors, higher harmonic control systems, and more, which later were used in designing future models of the aircraft.
The future of the Sikorsky X-Wing could be anything. It could fly again in its full glory or could be left as it is. However, many aircraft enthusiasts believe that the rare designed aircraft would make it to the air in the future. All we can do is hope.