HX50 Monthly Update & AMA - 12 October 2023
Welcome back, everybody to October's AMA. Ruben, it's going to be an amazing time tonight. Lots of amazing things happening at the DC 1, 2 and 3. We're going to see a full program update from across the board. Just looking at the chat here. Again, as always, we have people from all over the world connecting, you know, on average we have more than 2000 people connecting to each one of these AMAs.
It's really incredible to see how this network is really growing worldwide for the interest, for the HX50. Action packed evening tonight for everybody here. Ruben, why don't you tell us what we're in for? That's right, one more and getting very close to the finish line of that first aircraft going to be seen on stage on the 6th of December. And today's program is going to be as usual, an update, a very rich and packed information from Jason for about an hour or so, probably a little bit less. And then we're going to enter the AMA, which is something unique of the Hill program. We open up for questions from anybody, you can ask anything.
We put them in sequence. So start putting those questions as the presentation goes and we'll go one by one at the end right after the update that we will be hearing from Jason. So with no further delay, let's then give it all the time for Jason. Welcome, Jason.
Go ahead and you can start your, once more, wonderful update. Thanks Ruben. Thanks Mischa. And welcome to everybody from around the world this evening to DC One. We've got a packed program for you this evening covering the airframe, the engine, the drivetrain, avionics, electrical systems, and an update from across the production facility and our plans for our growing production facility into series production. Let's start with an update on the build of fuselage six and seven. As I explained last time, these are fuselages that are very much a culmination of everything that we've developed in the program to date.
All of the improvements and enhancements that we've developed to the manufacturability, the processes and the core design are embedded into both of these fuselages. They include the brow line modification for improved view angle, they include the exterior lighting integration for our developed lighting clusters. They include the carbon fiber bulkhead integration and all of the mechanical components that need to be embedded in the fuselages to receive the undercarriage systems and of course, the cabin door systems. In addition to that, we've been working through the development of the first two structurally representative tail booms, though these are tail booms that include all of the features that they need to attach structurally to the monolarge, all of the features to attach the drivetrain and all of the mechanical components and a representative laminate as well. So all of
those things are in there and we'll be heading down to DC Two to have a look at these in just a second. We've also been extensively developing the new versions of all of the cabin doors. So these are the cabin doors that use the bonded assembly. So both area tooled exterior skin, a tooled interior skin, trapping all of the door furniture and bringing those together in a much more production orientated process. I'll be giving you a significant update on those directly from DC Two.
So, without just looking at slides, let's head down to DC Two and DC Three now and I'll show you what we've been doing over the course of the last month or so. So, welcome to DC Two. And at the moment down here, it's doors, doors, doors. The guys are furiously laminating the doors for the front of the fuselage, the rear of the fuselage and the cargo doors. There's twelve to do in total for the two airframes that we're
building at the moment. Let's go and have a look at what they're actually building. So, our method for producing doors, as we've discussed, is two tool skins. So an outer skin and then an inner B surface skin that carries all of the detail for the locking mechanism and the internal trim door card. We work on model board tools at the moment. What you can see the guys doing here, this is the front copilot's door outer skin. So the first plies are down. We're just putting in the receiver for the swandle handles here.
There'll be plies laminated over the top of that, and then this can be bagged and cured in the oven. This is an out of autoclave prepreg system that we're using for these particular parts to make it easier to get the metallic inserts in. If we move over to this station over here, we've got a similar operation here, but this time it's a rear passenger side door.
The first plies are down, the door handles, metallics are in there, and the guys are just laminating over the top to trap and bond the metallic inserts into the fabric of the door. Again, you can see the modification that we've introduced here where we've built in the notch to receive the signature lighting strip that we've got built into each of these doors. There's a further pilot's door skin here. So this is a front door, pilot's door, outer door skin that's being laminated. And that should be ready for curing later on tomorrow. If we go down here, you can see the B surface, not the B surface, the internal skin of the baggage bay door.
So you can see the internal skins tend to be much more intricate because these are the skins that form the depth of the structural sections that give the door its stiffness and provide the pockets for the hinges and the locking mechanism and everything else that you need to make these doors work. So once these panels are cured off, they go into a glue jig, they're glued together and then they can be trimmed and fitted to the airframe using the hinges and the other mechanical components that have been developed up at DC One. The only other things that we've got going on here at the moment is we've got another B surface here. This one's a little bit further on. It's under vacuum bag, being devault, ready to cure shortly. If we go and have a quick look what we've got going on in the oven. Excuse the darkness.
What we've got in here, we've just shown you the internal surfaces for the cargo doors. What you've got here is a left hand and right hand external skin for the cargo doors on both sides of the airframe. They're all bagged, under vacuum and ready to cure. We get a full oven load of components in here this evening and then this will be curing. Right now, while I'm talking to you guys, let's have a quick look at what's on the Gantry mill. So, as you can see here, we've also got other tools here waiting to be laminated.
So we've got rear door B surfaces for port and starboard. We've got the rear cabin bulkhead, so that's your baggage bay bulkhead there. And then what we've got here, this is the copilot's door inner skin. So this is the last of the door tools that we need to make to be able to produce the final door for the HX50 fuselages. One thing you might notice is that the one side of the table on
the Gantry mill is inoperative at the moment. We're having more issues with this machine and I'll talk about what we're going to do about that a little bit later in the presentation. Let's go over to DC Three and have a look at some fuselages. Welcome to DC Three. And this is where things are getting really exciting. So we focus on laminating and component production over at DC Two. Here in DC Three, the guys are
doing a lot of the gap and flush and fit and finish and working on the full airframe. This is airframe six that's just come back from its first layer of surface treatment and paint production. What you can see here is we've now got the updated brow line into this fuselage and fully worked in, the exterior has been prepped from a surface point of view so it's ready to be painted. You'll also see with this one that a lot of the metallic elements of the structure that are required to mount the undercarriage are in there, also. So you can see the undercarriage mounting pads down in the stub wings. You can see the receptacles for the undercarriage locking struts. And then we've also got all of
the metallics up in the roof to pick up the gearbox. And then, of course, all of the metallics down in the tailboom to pick up the structural loads from the tailboom. The fuselage has been fully trimmed, so all of the apertures have been trimmed back to size.
On these prototype airframes, we're doing that by hand using the trim lines that we've built into the tools and patterns. In production, this will be robot trimmed using a bigger version of our robot that we'll show you down at DC One a little bit later. So in addition to this, the other things that we've been doing is essentially making sure that we've resolved all of the edges properly so that when we come to fit the doors, that we've got nice clean gap and flush. Similarly, we've been tidying up the edges up for the glazing, where the glazing fits up on top as well. You'll notice here that we've got a test cabin baggage bay door skin here.
So this is an outer skin. You saw the inner skins being produced over in DC Two that's been trimmed and is up there just to dress it and get it ready to be fitted with its B surface. You'll also see for the very first time that we've got the non structural wing covers on the airframe as well. So you're all used to seeing the airframes, just the structural elements of the airframe, which is the painted part of it here. This is the wingtip cuff that makes up the rest of the A surface that you're used to seeing in the renders. And then this
is the recess that provides for the landing light or the wingtip element of the landing light that I'll show you a little bit later in the presentation. So, really pleased with how all of this is coming on. It's looking absolutely great. The sort of fit and finish of these components has really exceeded my expectations, particularly given the challenges of working with very hastily produced prototype patterns and moulds.
But the guys have worked wonders on getting this all to sit together right, so I'm really excited to see the rest of this come together and to get it painted up and finished. In addition to the external fitting, so the wingtip covers, the doors, we've also got structural internal components. So this is the carbon rear cabin bulkhead. So this fits inside the fuselage at about this point here. This big aperture that's
moulded in it is physically so that we can get the bladder fuel tank into the cavity between the cabin rear bulkhead and the baggage bay bulkhead. And this fits snugly inside of there. It's been dry fitted. It fits just fine, which is good news. So we've got two of these waiting to go into the fuselages as we assemble them. That's all good. I showed you over the road that we're busy laminating doors. This is a B surface for one of the rear cabin doors. So, again, it's an extremely light piece of structure. But all of this integrated
form provides the structure that we need to carry the armrest loads and to pick up all the locking mechanism details as well. So really pleased with how the guys are getting on with the door skins. They're coming together. They're coming together very nicely. If we just go around and have a look on the other side of the fuselage for a moment, what you'll see is we've also just offered up the very first trimmed B surface.
So this is the rear starboard side door, and that fits just nicely. So the overall form of it's fine. We've got to get that bonded up now. Well skin pinned with its A surface. That'll take account of the pushback from the seals once we get those fitted, and then that door can be hung and will sit really nicely on the fuselage. So really pleased with how that's coming together.
Let's go and have a look at what we're doing with tailbooms. So this is the second structural tailboom that we've produced, and this is the one that's had the most prep work done on it to date. So, as I mentioned earlier, all of these composite components that we're showing you at the moment have been manufactured with prototype tools that were very hastily put together. They were all about process development and not about getting the most perfect surface finish. So
in order to get these paint ready, the guys have had to do a lot more patchwork, a lot more filling and sanding than you would do in production. What you can see here is the structural element of the tailboom, the tailboom cover, that covers the drive shaft as it goes down into the tailboom. And what you'll see here for the very first time is the second side of the tailboom. So the construction of this is this whole structure is made in one piece, with the exception of this top closure on the exit side of the duct, that allows us to trap all of the internal fixtures for the stator for the ducted fan assembly. So this panel has been trimmed and bonded on today. And then, of course, the final stage
is to fit the bumper panel on the bottom. We've also made the modification down here to take the modified tail light, which I'll be showing you a little bit later in the presentation. If we just have a look at what we've got here. This is the second structural tail boom that will be going on fuselage seven. This is currently untrimmed.
The guys are just starting to prep this for paint at the moment. But while we've got it here, you can see essentially the frangible or disposable bumper that sits on the bottom of the tailboom down there. So where you see the A surface braking there, that's so that we can put an energy absorbing bumper to protect the tail, to protect the tail assembly, and ultimately to protect the helicopter if you have a little indiscretion while you're trying to land.
So from across the board down here, the guys are making fantastic progress on all of the composite elements of the program. We've got fuselage seven out to paint at the moment and then we've got a bunch more fitting to get the tails integrated and then all we've really got left to make in terms of the composites are the last of the doors and the non structural elements that sit on the top of the fuselage. So fantastic progress from across the program over the course of last month. Let's head up back to DC One. So in addition to the work on the core fuselage, we've also been doing a lot of work on the first set of prototype skids that will be sitting on fuselage seven. So essentially, these are skids that are structurally and kinematically representative of the skids that we'll use in the flying prototypes. The only difference being there's a little bit more weight to come out of these things before they're ready to go flying. We've come up with a very practical and cost effective structural design which is
a hybrid of both a conventional metal tube structure that couples very nicely back to the dampers that we need in the fuselage with a cladding to deliver the sleek look of the skids. The metal tube structure is currently about halfway through being produced and we've just finished the moulds to be able to mould the composite cladding that goes around the legs and the down tubes. We've also been developing all of the mechanical components that are used at the top end of the skids to fit those back into the fuselage structure. And there's actually on the five axis over there the last of the receptor couplings that connect to the metallics that are buried into the structure. So, really pleased to see those coming along. I know there's a lot of guys out there that are keen to see how we're doing with skids. So just
a little update that they're coming and they're going to be ready for December. In addition to that, one of the things that is most distinctive about the HX50 is the cowled rotor system and the very carefully aerodynamically cowled pylon and mast. This is a particularly difficult area to do well because of the movement that you have to allow around the root of the rotor blades. And
it's also really important that we deliver on the aesthetic promises of the design. I'm pleased to say that we've delivered this in spades. I'm absolutely over the moon with how this has come out in final design. The production tooling for all of this is currently underway. At the moment, the guys are busily finishing the last of the tools to develop all of that cabin top structure, both the cowls that surround the engine and all of the plans and equipment that lives on the top of the fuselage and also the donut cowling that surrounds the main rotor hub. We expect the part production of those to start in around two weeks time and those will be the last components that we need to make for the two machines that we'll be displaying in December. So, really pleased to see all of that coming together. In addition to that, we've been talking at length over the last few months about our endeavors to deliver high optical clarity, high quality crash worthy windows, or crashworthy glazing for HX50. We've been doing a lot of development over the
course of the last month or two to improve the quality of the tooling that we use to be able to deliver optical clarity. It's relatively easy to form these materials. It's quite difficult to form them really, really well, particularly when you move to polycarbonate for the impact resistant windows on the front. We've completed all of the rework to the tooling that takes into account both the shift in the brow line, but also the surface rework that we've needed to do to deliver a surface that's capable of producing optically clear windows. We've optimized all of the forming processes necessary to deliver high quality windows, and then we've now started to produce the full batch of glazing that we're using for the two machines that we're delivering in December. So, fundamentally, all of the roof windows and the side windows are now at a level that we're satisfied with for production. We've got a couple of issues left to sort on the chin windows,
but fundamentally, we're satisfied now that we can produce high quality glazing for the aircraft in house. Let's go and have a look at a couple of the examples that we've got lying on the shop floor over here at DC One. So what you can see here is the first of the vacuum formed chin windows that's been developed using the latest tooling. So all of these areas here are excess material that
will just be trimmed off. And the actual chin window, so this sits under the nose of the helicopter, is this portion here, and the trim line sits about an inch inside this. So these are now being produced to a quality that's sufficient from an optical and a performance point of view. There's a few things that will refine for series production, but these are plenty good enough for where we need to be at the moment. These are the most difficult windows on the whole aircraft to produce because they have curvature in both directions, and it hugs the tool very closely. So until you're using heated aluminium tools that are highly polished, this poses real challenges for the composite tools and the model board tools that we're using at the moment to keep the cost down while we're going through the development process. What you can see behind me here is the forward roof window, and this one is a
lot simpler to form to a high degree of optical clarity on account of the fact that it's a lot flatter and a lot simpler curvature. So we've got all of these produced now, and we're expecting to get these units trimmed over the course of the next week on the Gantry mill, and then they can be dry fitted on the fuselage, ready for the rest of the panels to butt up to. So, really pleased with how the Glazing is coming on. One of the areas that we always knew was going to be challenging was painting these early fuselages. So, as I've said on multiple occasions, the tooling that we developed for the early stage prototypes for HX50 was very much about bringing together all of the elements from different industries that were necessary to make cost effective composites at this scale and in these volumes.
What that has meant is that that was very much an expedited process. It was all about the process development and not the finished surface quality. So the surface on the tools that we've been working with to date isn't at the same level that it will be in production. And what that means is, unfortunately, the paint guys have an even harder job to do to get a decent paint finish on these things for the first fuselages. So, over the course of the last week,
fuselage six has been out at the paint shop and the guys have been doing all of the surface preparation and the priming and the surface rectification to get that fuselage up to the point where it's a high quality paintable surface. And they've done an amazing job. Now, don't worry about any of these details because fundamentally, all of this comes from the tools. And with the new Gantry mill that will be arriving in January, and the refined production processes for patterns and tools, all of these things come straight out of the mould for production. But over the course of the last week or so, fuselage six has had its first well, several coats of primer and a lot of surface work.
And fuselage seven is out at the paint shop right now getting ready to receive its final color. So, really pleased with how that's gone over the course of the week. Let's talk about the engine program for a little while. Over the course of the last month, as you're aware, our main focus has been about preparing to do the combustion system testing. So we finalized the design of the combustion, the core combustion test rig elements. All of those things are now either here or in production, at the moment. We have essentially produced now all of the fuel nozles and the airblast atomizers. We have the ignition system here. We've also been doing some further
work on blade casting, and I've got some good news to report on that. And we've been starting the journey on the casting of the big thin walled casings, which is one of the other challenging areas with the engine development. We're now converging on the finished combustor, annular combustor itself. And I'll be showing you a little bit more of that in a second. So as I mentioned, a lot of the work over the course of the last month has been about refining the combustion test rig and getting all of the additional equipment you need beyond the engine hardware to run a successful test. The guys have been efforting that over the course of the last few weeks. The objectives, of course, being to show that we can get effective ignition, stable combustion within the environment, and get that fire burning.
All of those components are now in manufacture and these will all be here before the end of the month. One of the things that we are doing for the combustion test is using rapid prototyping as an analogy for the casting processes for the casings, just to give us the flexibility to change anything that we need to before we go on to the full blown gas generator test. Everything else that you can see in the combustion test is being made right here at DC One.
So if we talk for a second about the annular combustor, we've now perfected the rolling process. We've perfected the stretching process to produce these annular rings perfectly to tolerance. And we're now building up the stack of internal and external rings ready to get that welded together.
And I shall show you that in just a second. We've had some issues with spinning the end cap, so if you think of the end of the doughnut on the annular combustor and so the guys have been machining some of those components from solid rather than spinning those, in the short instance. In production, those parts will actually be pressed. But I'm loathed to lay down a press tool until we know we've got the geometry right. So Mark's been working around that for us. And I'll show you some of the components that we've been making in just a second. The other big news is that over the course of the last few weeks, we've been doing a lot of NDT and a lot of inspection on our in house cast super alloy turbine plates for both the gas generator and also the power turbine. And I'm delighted to
report that we have now concluded that work. And we've passed all the inspection criteria. So Hill Helicopters can now cast inexpensive superalloy turbine blades in house, and we're doing so ready for the test engine. So really, really pleased with that. The scanning electron microscope results were just what we were expecting.
We've got a little bit of process optimization to do, which I'll show you in just a second, and then we're ready to invest in the casting infrastructure to enable us to do that in volume as we go into production. The final innovative step in the casting journey is to be able to cast the large casings that we need for both the engine and ultimately some of the aluminium casings we need for the aircraft gearboxes as well. The challenge with these casings is that they are extremely complicated. They're quite big and they have very, very thin walls. And what that means
is it's actually difficult to get the molten metal to flow through those cavities without solidifying too quickly and blocking the cavities before you've cast the part. So, we've been developing with our casting partners, some very, very clever processes to enable us to do that for the types of parts that we need. That work is ongoing at the moment and we'll be travelling out to Germany over the course of the next month or so to finalize that step, once we've finalized that step. That is literally the last part of process development that we need to do to make this engine. This isn't
something that's holding us up for the prototype engine because, as I said, presently we're using rapid prototype parts for the casting, which is a perfectly representative process to do. So, let's go and have a look at some of these details on the engine. So, as you're aware, we've been casting both power turbine blades and gas generator blades using trees. So, part of the process development that we've been doing is looking at the different performance of block moulding and shell moulding.
And we've now got specimens back from the test lab that have used both block moulding and also shell moulding. The benefit of block moulding to us is that it's a substantially cheaper process, it's much faster to execute, and the equipment we need to do that is far less expensive. To facilitate all of that, we've been doing a lot of development in the process for making the wax trees that you need to be able to hang a load of these turbine blade waxes and create a cavity that allows you to create multiple turbine blades in a single shot. So we've produced some tooling that essentially allows us, essentially allows us to cast a wax sprue onto which we can then weld the individual turbine blades, drop that into the block moulding slurry and then melt this out. And we've got our casting void. What you can see here is the very first hill produced block moulded gas generator turbine blades. And here we have the analysis report that shows that they can form geometrically.
And then on top of that, we also have the metallurgical report back now that shows that the metallurgy is right, the crystal structure is right. We're making good blades. These have now got to go off and be hot isostatically pressed to make sure we close off any voids x rayed, and then these can be ground and are ready to go into an engine. So really pleased with how that's coming together. We've also done the same for the process with shells so that we can compare the metallurgical properties and the mechanical properties to see if there's any advantage to us in sticking to the older ways. I don't expect that there will be for the turbine blades, I think the process gives us much more control, doing it with this slightly more modern approach. So really pleased with how that's going. If we move on to the combustion system now,
you've seen over the period of the last few months, we've been laser cutting and rolling and forming and profiling the rings to make up the annular combustor. And we've now got this process to a point where we're making these things to tolerance. And what you can see here is a couple of the I've just pulled these off the workshelf over there. This is the size of your annular combustor. These are conforming outer rings, conforming inner rings. These get grown up to about this height, capped off. There's a bird mouth in the center that feeds into the gas generator turbine nozle. And then we're good to go.
And the way these things work. The reason why these profiles are so important is if you look at the subtle gap at the top here, the void that's created by this change in profile, that's the area that when we drill holes on the back of this lip, feeds cooling air down both the outside and the inside of these thin sheet metal pieces to be able to put a blanket of cooling compressor delivery air over the metal to keep the metal temperatures down to a level that they can survive. So the geometry of that is really, really important. It's fiddly stuff to do and we've cracked it. So the first combustor is well on its way to being completed now.
And as we get to the end of the month, this thing will be built up and welded, ready to go into the test rig. If we just to have a look at some of the other components that we've been producing, that component that sits round the end of this combustor can will actually be pressed. There'll be a sort of doughnut annular tool thump. You press it out of sheet metal and away you go. Quite simple. Those press tools are quite expensive for this sort of material.
So what we've been doing is trying to spin those, which hasn't really worked very well. So we've made a simple tool and then Mark and the guys have just been essentially making some machined inserts that can be welded in, that will receive the air blast atomizer. So what you've got there is the swirler nozle. So that's the back face of the combustor here. The swirler nozle goes through there. And inside that swirler nozle, we have a fuel injector with integrated last chance filter that sits just inside that assembly there. And what you've got here is a small fuel nozle. And out of this void comes swirling air that smashes the atomized fuel into tiny, tiny particles that give you nice clean combustion, which is both highly efficient and minimizes the amount of sooting that we get in the engine and ultimately down your tailboom. So really pleased with how that's coming on.
And then the other piece of the puzzle that's dropped in recently is we've taken delivery of the first few igniters that fit in the bottom of the combustion chamber to get the fire started. So, really pleased with how the combustion rig is coming together. And like I say, we should have all of these bits on hand and ready to assemble within this month.
So we'll get that test done just as soon as we can. Let's head back. So, let's talk about the drivetrain and gearbox production for a second. So, as you're aware, we built the first HX50 gearbox about 12-18 months ago as essentially a lubrication test rig, proving that we could get lubrication into the bearings and the oils, to drive the gearbox at the powers that we want to, to have the life that we want to and to ensure that the gearbox can run dry as required by the certification requirements. Since that gearbox was built, we've made a bunch of modifications to the gear design, to the lubrication strategy, and also to the mast design.
So what we're doing at the moment, we've got that gearbox stripped, and we're fitting the new mast with the rotor hub assembly on the top of it into the gearbox. And we're also producing new casings for the two additional gearboxes that we're producing for the two aircraft to be displayed in December. So, really pleased with how that's coming on. Let's just go over and I'll show you some of the bits that we're producing right at the moment. So, what you can see here is these are some of the strip components from the original gearbox. This is the new sprag clutch that I showed you a month or so ago. You've got your planetary set and your spiral bevel set. That is the first stage
into the gearbox. And here is the very first 2nd generation rotomast for HX50. So this has got the latest spline detail, the latest connection detail to get the rotomast connected into the transmission. And all of this new stuff that you can see at the top is the very first components that we've produced for the HX50 rotor system. So you've got the upper and lower clamping plates that are splined onto the main rotor shaft. And just so that you can understand where it goes, essentially, they clamp the strap packs that provide your flapping and also your feathering motion for the rotor system. So, all of that's coming together very nicely. What you can see down here on the bench is we've essentially
got the upper casings for three additional gearboxes that we're producing at the moment. We're partway through machining the planet carriers for two of those gearboxes, and we've got the remaining two rotor masts there just waiting for the final couple of operations to receive the rotor head on top. So really pleased with what the guys are doing on transmissions. That's all coming together very nicely. Just in the nick of time. So one of the things that's been particularly exciting over the last couple of weeks is that we're now deep into building the very first HX50 rotor system. The upper and lower hub parts have been produced, as I've just shown you over on the bench.
These are the components being machined on the five axis. And we've currently just finished this afternoon, the very first HX50 blade cuff. So this is the part that receives the composite rotor blade. It houses the elastomeric lag damper, it connects to the strap pack that facilitates all the blade motions, it's aerodynamically designed, and it also connects to all of your blade fold features as well. So we're really,
really pleased with how these have come out. Let's go and have a look at that on the five axis so you can have a look at what we've been doing to deliver these key components. So, this is the second five axis machine that we added recently. And here is the
very first HX50 blade cuff. Blade cuff number one. So this is a part of the blade so that the rotor blade route connects here. The lag damper lives inside here, the strap pack lives in here. Your pitch control rods, or your pitcher, your rod ends attach on this lug down at the bottom here. And then the aerodynamic cowling that works into the rotor system fits up against these components here. So that's the very first one that we've ever produced. And what you can see
right here is the next eight that have had their internal machining ops done that are just waiting for their turn on the five axis to be turned into rotor components. So, really pleased with how that's coming. Let's talk for a second about the swash plate assembly. So, some more fun stuff. One of the other things that we've been building recently is the swash plate assembly and all of the flight controls that sit just below the rotor hub. So what you can see in that inset
figure there is the strap packs at the top. And then you've got your rotating and non rotating swash plates, your spherical bearing in the centre, and your pitch roll and collective jack rods - jack beam, sorry - that are mounted on top of the main rotor gearbox. All of those components have now been completed and they're sat on Craig's bench awaiting build. So let's just go and have a quick look at the build of the very first well, not the very first, actually, the first three HX50 swash plate assemblies.
So, what you can see here is the assembly drawings for the whole system. So you've got the spherical bearing, the swash plate assembly, and all of the detail that the guys build to. Over here, you've got the collective jack beam. So this is the beam that lifts the whole swash plate system up and provides collective pitch. And then you've got the pitch and roll jack beams as well. So your cyclic is connected to these two and your collective is connected to this fellow.
And then over here we've got the first three swash plate assemblies. So fixed swash plate assembly at the bottom and then the rotating assembly at the top. And the only thing that we're waiting for at the moment is this fellow that I did show in one of the customer updates that we've actually machined these. They've all been made, but they're out at the moment being anodized and then PTFE coated. So that we've got the lubrication for the spherical bearing.
And then those three assemblies, two for the aircraft and one for a static test rig, have been built. And then what you can see here is it's yet to be completed, but the mechanical and the part of the elastomeric part of the lag damper that's buried inside the blade cuff. So really excited to see this stuff coming together. It's a really exciting time to be around here at DC One.
So one of the areas that we talked extensively about in the early days, but we haven't talked about much since, is our ducted fan tail rotor. So we're designing the tail rotor on HX50 to have a great deal of authority even up at hot and high altitudes. We've got eight asymmetrically spaced blades, a very deep duct, and then linearized characteristics through the way that we've done the control rigging, we've updated the aerodynamic design. The aerodynamic design was done a long time ago, but it had been a little while before we could get capacity onto it to get the mechanical design updated in the aircraft.
That's now done in terms of the blades, the pitch change mechanism, and the overall housings and blade retention. We've got a little bit of work to do left on the gearbox, but essentially that's now updated and also being produced right now at the moment. What the guys are doing down at DC Two. And you could see it in the images I showed you during the walk around.
You can see it on that slide there is we've developed all of the tooling and the jigging necessary to be able to drill off and provide the fixtures for the stator into tail booms two and three that are down there at the moment. So the guys are providing all the provisions at the moment to get that tail assembly into the duct of the two aircraft. So really pleased with how that's going on. The performance of the tail rotor is incredible. We still maintain directional control with 35 knots of wind from any direction, even up at 10,000ft. So barring
any nasty surprises on test, we should have an awesomely powerful tail rotor. And the only thing we've really got left to do that on that is a minor gearbox Tweak, which will be picked up early in the new year. So really pleased to see the tail rotor coming together. The other thing that's gone on over the course of the last week is,
obviously as we get closer to flight test and we get deeper into our approvals process, we're having increasingly regular meetings and engagement with the regulators. Over the course of the last week, we've had a very successful visit from the engine and transmission specialist at the CAA. We've been going through our test and certification strategy and some of the detailed elements of the test and certification plan for the engine and the drivetrain elements. Because all of those elements are going to be the first things that we need to do in order to make sure that we've got enough hours on those things on the bench to be able to safely derisk the flight testing. So the meeting went extremely well. The guys were very impressed with where we're up to and what we've got done. And our new lead of engine and transmission certification performed extremely well. So we're in safe hands. The approvals process is going as well
as can be hoped for where we are in the program, so really pleased with that. The guys were also delighted with the capability that we've developed here at DC One for bearings, gears and the other critical components in the engine and drivetrain. So, a very successful visit, full stop.
Let's talk about the digicokpit for a second. I teased a little bit last month that we've been doing a lot of work on the IPI. We've now developed through a great deal of detail on the IPI.
So this is the Integrated Pilot Interface that distills the big stack of black boxes you've got in the centre of your cockpit into one single seven inch screen. The user interface development of that has been refined and optimized. Now the menu structure for that has been developed and Eric is busily implementing that into the software environment, ready to be loaded on board the aircraft. We've got a much simpler menu structure, a nice simple homepage with a very shallow structure. It's much easier to interact with the puck, it's a cleaner look. And then we've got an accessible toolbar at the bottom that gives you one click access to pretty much anything that you could want to do with the IPI. It's still very much work in progress,
as these things often are, but you'll get to play with this at the event in December and make your own mind up whether we've done a good job or not. I think the guys have done an incredible job, myself. We've also been doing some more work on the MFD. So this is the second screen on the copilot side of the aircraft. You've obviously got video feeds available to you on that screen. You can have a duplicate
set of flight instruments on that screen. But one of the things that we're developing for that screen at the moment is a user interface that's much more usable by a non flying customer and also a very large traffic scope. So these are very much work in progress ideas at the moment. So if any of the customers have got any thoughts or ideas about that, please do feed it back. But in that particular setup on the screen that we've got there, we've got salient information at the top for non flying passengers. You've got a big cover flow media center on the left hand side and a big traffic scope available to the pilot. Nice, big and bold. So,
again, work in progress, but we're pleased with how that's coming. And don't forget, we'll be feeding video images as a background to that as well. One of the other areas that's really taking shape now is the very first IPI.
So over the course of the last month or so, the guys have been developing all of the trimming strategies necessary for our cyclic and collective heads. So they look very pretty in renders, but they're not the easiest things in the world to trim. And we've developed out the techniques to be able to trim these. We've developed the backlighting for the decals, we've dealt with all of the perceived quality issues for the feel of the buttons that sit on the switch heads. The only thing that we've got left to do on this at the moment is to sort out the trigger functionality and then we're well away with that.
So, really pleased with how these things are coming on. It feels great. And the trim quality is, again, far beyond what I hoped, really. It's really delivered above and beyond on my expectations. So really pleased with that. The little inset pictures that you can see there are all of the components for the first two IPIs, sorry, first two instrument panels for HX50. So for the two machines for December. So they're all in stock now, waiting to be trimmed and then assembled onto the aircraft.
So, really pleased with how all of that's coming together. If we talk briefly about the digi cockpit, what we've got behind me at the moment is a second cabinet, which is being used to essentially bench build, the wiring looms, all of the hardware and all of the physical equipment that are going into the two machines at Christmas ahead of transferring it to the aircraft. So the digicockpit corner is a little bit of a mess at the moment because there's so much going on there.
But we're currently just integrating all of the hardware, the software and the wiring looms to make all of that stuff work as soon as it goes into the aircraft. So, really pleased with that. One area that we've been talking to customers, but not publicly about for a little while now is our exterior lighting clusters. We want to make sure that HX50 is sort of distinctive and elegant and lives up to all of your expectations that you'd get from a premium automotive product, but also that it works really well as both a day and night VFR aircraft. So we were always very keen that the night lighting and the landing lighting that we provide is really, really powerful and safe for use in the widest variety of conditions that we can imagine. We are now well into prototyping all of the lighting clusters.
These prototype units will be used to verify all of the optical performance of the lights, all of the sort of manufacturability of the lights. And they'll also be present on the two machines that we demonstrate in December. So what you can see in the figure here, you've got a landing light in the nose. You've got a split anticolision beacon partly in the nose and partly in the tail to give full 360 degree coverage. We've got contributing landing lights on the wingtip that provide a wider beam. And then you've got your navigation lights located in the wingtips. Also, we've got prototypes of both these accrued rapid prototypes that develop out the electronic parts on the bench over there that I'll show you right now. And we're expecting to have the
wing tip lights with us very shortly. Let's go and have a look at these things in action. So what you can see here is the inside portions. And none of this has been sort of finished with chrome coatings or any of that yet. This is purely rapid prototype material. So we've got the 3D Hill badge on the top of the unit. We've got a bright chrome Hill emblem.
And that's what you'll see when you walk up to the aircraft. And then below the center, we've got the forward portion of the anticolision light. And I'll demonstrate the rear version of that in a second. And then we've got the optics for the LED landing lights right here. So if I just pop those on for a second, then all of the electronic and optical design for these has been completed. I'll just knock them off center so I
don't kill the camera. All of the heatsinks and the electronics are packaged within the module and these things will literally light up anything that you want to. They're incredibly powerful. So we've got a little bit of tuning to do with those to get the spread and the level and intensity of those things right. But these things are working a treat. The finished versions of these with all the appropriate finishes and packaged into within the lenses are being built right now as I speak. So really excited to see those
things come together. Our lighting production partners have done an absolutely incredible job. Let me just show you the tail light cluster. Just pop that down there for a second. So this is buried into the tip of the ducted fan. So you've got a chrome finishing piece around here. You've got two contributors to your rear navigation light, and then you've got your anti collision beacon that fits right there. And this thing has got an incredible range of visibility. So if I just knock that on for a second, I'll just turn it away from Milan so it doesn't blind him. But that's all operational. We're using some proxy drivers at the moment,
rather than the correct airworthy drivers, because this is all about the optical performance. It's all about getting the manufacturing engineering of these clusters right and then, of course, getting the heat rejection right for the various environments that these things will be operating in in practice. So, really pleased with how these things are coming on. We've got a little surprise for you with the strip lights that run down the side of the fuselage. And we should have the wingtip lights in this state within the next week or so. So really,
really pleased with how the lighting hardware is coming together. In terms of the interior, it's been also a busy old week on the interior. Oh - a busy month or so on the interior. We've been doing a lot of work on our crew seat, if you remember, to our last remember back to our last global meetup. We put a seat demonstrator, a seat technology demonstrator on the stand.
So this brought together the crash worthiness the composite structures, the trimming essentials and structures, and all of the other elements that we need. What we're doing now is taking that to a new level with a generation two crew seat. So this goes back much closer to our original design intent, brings all of those technologies together and delivers a really, really beautiful and comfortable seat. What you can see in the inset picture there is some of the underpinning structure that we're testing at the moment before it gets trimmed and finished off. And that work is going on right now with one of our partners. And then the other thing that we're working on
at the moment is all of the interior surface of the aircraft obviously has to be trimmed. So that requires substrates. So we've been designing all of the clip on substrates for trimming your pillars, your roof linings, your chin beams, and all of the other things that are required to be able to deliver that plush automotive grade interior that you all want for HX50.
So really pleased with how that works been coming on, it's really coming together. So I would ordinarily do a quick walk around at this point, but I'm conscious of time. I'll just quickly show you two things while we're here. In terms of the skid development, what we've got here is the last of the receptacles that will go into aircraft sorry, fuselage seven. And this is what the front skid connectors are attached to in the fuselage. This is how we get the loads into the fuselage. And then on the three axis at the moment,
you can see that we're busily producing the first lower half of the gearbox casings, for the three gearbox casings that we're producing for December. So that's pretty much what we've been up to over the course of the last few weeks in terms of mechanical components. Let's talk briefly about some additional production facilities that we're developing. I mentioned while we were down at DC Two that the Gantry mill has become somewhat problematic for us. Gantry mills are critical to composites because we need to make vast patterns, vast moulds, and then we need to trim these large composite components, trim glazing, and that requires these great big CNC machines that can do that reliably and repeatably. These machines are different to the machines that we have here because they
have to have extensive dust extraction and manage large amounts of material removal. Our Gantry mill was bought secondhand during the pandemic simply because you couldn't get anything at that time and we needed to progress. But the machine has become so unreliable now that it's costing us significant amounts of time in the program. So, we've elected to purchase the first of the gantry mills that we'll use in production. So we've invested in a vast 8.5 meter by 5 meter by 2 meter working envelope gantry mill.
This will be the machine that produces all of the production tools. It will produce all of the production patterns. It will trim all of your windows, it'll trim all of your doors. It'll do all of those operations, and it lands here in the UK in January this year. So from January, the kit that we need to produce all of these things for your aircraft will be with us and will be working.
It has, of course, landed me with another slightly challenging problem, which is bigger than any of my facilities. So we're going to need some more space. So we'll get onto that in just a second. But the other thing that this thing does as well, this is the machine that produces your composite rotor blades as well. It produces those tools for the rotor blades that we go flying with. Let's give you a quick update on where we are with the production facility. As you are aware, we were due to be submitted to committee a little while ago. That was delayed. It was delayed again, and now the planning authorities are
requesting that we do what they call an environmental impact assessment. They estimate that the timeline for this will be between five and eight months. Given what we've seen so far, I think it'll be longer than that. So the development facility is now on the critical path, which means we have to consider our production continuity plan.
That's what we're doing now. So our next step is essentially to take on a large rented space that will give us all of the room that we need to complete the development and then move seamlessly into production. There's plenty of these facilities available in our area. We're in negotiations with a number of facilities at the moment. We haven't yet decided on the exact site or size, but this will be done before the event in December. Okay, so there's some
decisions to make whether we split production and flying or whether we use multiple sites. All of those options are open and they make no difference to our ability to deliver. So we're getting on with this right now, and we're just making sure that we can stick as closely as possible to our declared timeline. So really pleased with how this is coming along.
The other thing that this does, of course, do is it means we can take as long as we need to to develop the HQ, and it also means we can consider sites at airports, which make the whole planning issue a lot easier as well. So what we've done here is, rather than being held ransom by a challenging environment, we've taken a very pragmatic sidestep and now we move on at full speed. So with all of this fun stuff happening, sales have continued to roll in at quite a pace. We've now sold 765 Xs 178 Cs, giving us a grand total of 943 aircraft.
So just 57 to go until that magic thousand number. We're in 67 countries. There has never been a better time to join our community. So if you don't want to wait too long for your helicopter, come join us now. Thank you very much for listening to me and I'm happy now to answer any questions that you may have.
Thank you. Fantastic update, Jason, thank you very much. This one was really packed one, and I really appreciate the final part that you shared about production because we have a lot of those questions coming out about how you're going to be producing, when it's going to be producing, how is the factory, and that was very clear today. Making it clear also that production is going to start as planned. So, we're going to go with the questions. The first one right away is from Lawrence.
We've been receiving questions on the chat, and if you have questions, just put it in now because they'll be in sequence. Mischa and I will be taking turns. So the first one is from Lawrence. It says, for those of us older pilots, will the digital displays have the capacity to display key data and enlarge display for easy viewing? So at the moment, the Digi cockpit is just being developed as a minimum viable product, as we say. So we're defining just the core features to make the thing work properly. Of course, with a digital environment, you've got the option to overlay as many themes as we want to and to vary things like font size. The only challenge you've got with that is unlike a car display, we cram a lot of information into the real estate. So there are some practical limits to how
much you could expand the size of the fonts. But fundamentally, the fonts are being designed to be readable by anybody that can pass an aviation medical. So at the moment, if you look at some of the graphics that are out there, some of the fonts are a little bit small. We're cognizant of that.
We're sorting that out. It's being mopped up as part of this UX redesign tha