Transcend Air has selected Kaman Aerospace Group to build its planned Vy 400 tiltrotor. In an August 13 announcement, the U.S. company said that Kaman, which is a very experienced helicopter manufacturer, will make the tiltwing turbine-powered model at its facility in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Vy 400 is expected to have a range of up to 450 miles and cruise speeds in excess of 400 mph. Transcend Air envisions the aircraft being used for regional passenger services, such as connecting Manhattan and the center of Boston in 36 minutes. The company claims it will be the world’s fastest helicopter and single-engine civil turboprop aircraft.
Transcend intends to certify the Vy 400 under FAA's rules covering tiltrotor aircraft by 2025 with a propulsion system based on a 2,500-shp GE Aviation CT7-8 turboshaft engine. This week, the company switched to this powerplant from the Pratt & Whitney PT6A turboprop. The engine powers the two main propellers through a mechanical drivetrain and generates power for all the other systems onboard, including the electric tailfan, using all-electric actuation.
The company is aiming to have a first full-scale prototype ready to start flight testing by early 2023. It said the five-passenger, piloted aircraft will deliver per-mile direct operating costs that are one-quarter of those for medium twin helicopters with comparable cabin volumes and payloads.
At the end of 2020, the company opened the order book with a projected purchase price of $3.5 million. Operators such as U.S. air taxi firm Hopscotch Air have previously expressed an interest in adding the type to their fleets. Huslig Collective has been contracted to develop designs for a luxury interior option for a Vy 400R “Reserved Edition” model for executive/VIP transportation.
“Because of the Vy’’s high speed, we can complete many more passenger trips per aircraft,” said Transcend Air co-founder and CEO Gregory Bruell. “The combination of that and VTOL is key to our revolutionary economics, and Kaman will be key to scaling up production to meet the huge demand that our mass-market fares will drive.”
In April, The U.S. Air Force’s Afwerx program awarded Transcend a small business technology transfer research and development contract to explore the use of the Vy 400 for possible military support missions. It will work with Auburn University to develop simplified vehicle operation and flight control laws to allow the Vy 400 to operate in “nap of the earth” mode to avoid detection in hostile territory by flying just above terrain contours.
During the course of this year, the Boston-based company has been using a mix of simulation, analysis tools, and truck-based ground tests to refine flight control laws, handling qualities, and various systems details. It has not said when it expects to build the first full-scale prototype and commence flight testing.
Kaman Aerospace is part of Kaman Corp., founded by rotorcraft and guitar innovator Charlie Kaman. The company produces the K-Max manned and unmanned medium- to heavy-lift helicopters, as well as the SH-2G Super Seasprite maritime helicopter.
“Viewed from our unique rotorcraft market experience as both a helicopter manufacturer and a major supplier to other aerospace manufacturers, the Vy 400’s advantages in both civil and military applications are compelling,” said Russ Bartlett, Kaman’s senior v-p and COO.