The Bell 429, a new light twin helicopter derived from the Bell 427i, will be dramatically unveiled at an 11:30 a.m. press event today at Bell Helicopter’s booth, No. 1087 in Hall D. Bell announced the 427i, an IFR-capable version of the 427, less than one year ago at Heli-Expo 2004.
Hidden behind large, translucent curtains are two 429 mockups, in executive and aeromedical configurations. “Follow the noise and light to the unveiling,” said Mike Redenbaugh, Bell CEO, at a preshow press conference yesterday afternoon. Bell has already logged more than 90 orders for the 429, most of them converted from orders for the 427i, which the 429 will replace.
As part of Bell’s focus on continual improvement of its existing products, Redenbaugh also said that Bell and Honeywell have agreed to integrate the Honeywell HTS900 engine into the single-engine turbine, seven-passenger Bell 407. The new model is called the 407X.
“We have invested more than $4 million in reliability and maintainability upgrades on the 407 over the past two years,” Redenbaugh said. “By adding the HTS900 to the 407, we are maintaining a path of spiral development that will bring performance improvement to existing product.” Over the last two years, Bell has fielded more than 50 product improvements for the 407, which together have reduced the operating cost by about $20 per hour.
The 813-shp Rolls-Royce 250-C47B turboshaft currently powers the 407. Redenbaugh said the company had not yet made the decision whether it would produce the 407 and 407X concurrently. “That depends on what our customers want, whether they still want the 407,” he said. “We’re really listening to our customers.” He added that a retrofit kit to put the HTS900 into 407s would be made available. The 925-shp HTS900, a development of the Honeywell LTS101 turboshaft, provides a 15-percent improvement in installed power and is expected to improve significantly the hot/high performance capability of the 407.
Also at the press conference, Redenbaugh said Bell’s backlog of orders was up 94 percent at the end of last year compared with the end of 2003, the company’s highest backlog in 17 years. Sales have been “across the board,” he said, although the utility sector–in particular, oil and gas–showed the largest increase.
The Bell CEO said the Bell 210–a civil version of the UH-1H Huey–continues with its flight test program.