Hill Helicopters Unveils First HX50 Prototypes

hill helicopters prototypes
Credit: Hill Helicopters

LONDON—UK rotorcraft startup Hill Helicopters has unveiled the first completed prototypes of its HX50 single-engine light helicopter.

The first two finished aircraft—one with skid landing gear, the other with wheeled landing gear—were displayed to customers in a glitzy ceremony at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, England, on Dec. 6.

Hill is looking to challenge the general aviation industry by delivering an aircraft developed primarily for private ownership. The startup is seeking to reduce the barriers to ownership and keep costs attractive, with vertical integration of the company’s supply chain and manufacturing process.

That vertical integration even extends to the development of a turboshaft engine for the helicopter—the 500-shp HT50—although no examples of the engine are yet operational.  

Jason Hill, the company’s CEO and founder, says the OEM is on target for a first flight of the HX50 in 2024, although original plans had aimed to bring the platform to market during 2023.

Hill is offering the aircraft in two models. The HX50 is available to buy under the experimental home-built category. It will be assembled on Hill’s production line, but the process will require the owners to attend a build course at the company’s UK Civil Aviation Authority-approved factory and participate in the entire build process—planned to take around two weeks. 

The second model—the HC50—will be a fully certified aircraft, identical to the HX50 and built in the same facility. The HC50 will be available to the market at a later point. 

Hill is closing in on a milestone of 1,000 sales, with 789 HX50s sold and 186 HC50s on order. During the Duxford event, the company announced that it is now taking pre-orders for the HC50 model—with a price tag of £625,000 until Dec. 11, rising to £725,000 after that date.

The startup also revealed that its flight operations will initially be performed at Halfpenny Green Airfield near Wolverhampton, England.  

Previously, Hill been exploring the use of an industrial facility in Cresswell, England, and adapting the land nearby for flight operations. However, the plans faced objections from local residents.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.