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X-49A Speedhawk Developer Piasecki Dies

X-49A Speedhawk Developer Piasecki Dies

Frank Piasecki, designer of revolutionary helicopters like the PV-2, the 16H-1 and the X-49A died February 11th, 2007.

Early last year, one of America’s pioneers of rotary aircraft, Frank Piasecki, sadly passed away. Piasecki was best known as the man who successfully developed the first tandem-rotor helicopter.

In 1940, Piasecki and a former class mate, Howard Venzie, formed a company called PV Engineering. The company built a single-seat, single-rotor helicopter designated the PV-2 that took its first flight on April 11, 1943.

pv-2 helicopter

PV-2 Helicopter

The design won them a military contract and in 1946, the company changed its name to Piasecki Helicopter Corporation.

In 1986 President Ronald Reagan awarded Piasecki the National Medal of Technology for his long running contributions to the world of aviation.

piasecki meets reagan

Piasecki Meets Reagan

Piasecki’s designs paved the way for long-serving military helicopters like the CH-47 Chinook and the CH-46 Sea Knight. Piasecki was also responsible for the creation of the Boeing Vertol Company which generates over $500 million dollars a year.

In the early 60’s Piasecki began testing new helicopter concepts including the Piasecki 16H-1 and 16H-1A. These helicopters could fly at speeds of up to 225 mph (360 km/h) and provided the inspiration for newer, compound helicopter designs like the X-49A Speedhawk.

X49A Speedhawk

X49A Speedhawk

The Speedhawk, originally designated YSH-60F/VTDP, consists of Sikorsky YSH-60F chassis that has been modified to incorporate the lifting wings of a Aerostar FJ-100 business jet and a “Vectored Thrust Ducted Propeller” (VTDP) system. A ring tail has since been added and the helicopter drive train modified to better accommodate VTDP.

Piasecki’s modifications to the YSH-60F enable the Speedhawk to fly over speeds of 200 kt (360 km/h).

The X-49A has completed its initial testing phase, and is continuing with further rigorous testing before hopefully being deployed by the US Navy.


  • Maximum speed: 145 knots (167 mph, 268 km/h)
  • Range: 380 nmi (437 mi, 704 km)
  • Service ceiling 19,000 ft (5,790 m)
  • Rate of climb: 700 ft/min (3.6 m/s)
  • Disc loading: lb/ft² (kg/m²)
  • Crew: 3
  • Capacity: 8 passengers or slung load of 6,000 lb or internal load of 4,100 lb for -B, -F and -H models and 11 passengers or slung load of 9,000 lb for -S
  • Length: 64 ft 10 in (19.76 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 53 ft 8 in (16.36 m)
  • Height: 17 ft 2 in (5.23 m)
  • Disc area: 2,262 ft² (210 m²)
  • Empty weight: 13,648 lb (6,190 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 20,110 lb (9,575 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 21,884 lb (9,927 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2× General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshaft, 1,620 hp (1,208 kW) continuous each

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One Comment

  1. Brussels 26 dec 09 at 0.10 am local time
    Just can’t understand why this idea is not progressing faster and further than it ought to be: or are current models just impeding any further development.
    Moreover, if materials and motors are of course more powerful, this is just another variant of the autogiro principle ( flying around 1934 if not earlier).
    Since 2007 no further news of this new (?) vertol ?
    Bst rgds    maxim

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