Sure, you can fly, but you can’t travel. That was the case with Bell Helicopter Textron’s new Model 429, still in the test-flight phase. The speedy light twin intended for display at Heli-Expo 2008 was in Canada and flight-ready, but it had less than the 25 flight hours needed before it could legally be flown across the border into the U.S.
So Bell pilots took to the air near the company’s Mirabel, Quebec manufacturing plant in a successful effort to build the necessary hours. The aircraft, one of three currently flying, is now prominently displayed at the Bell Helicopter booth (No. 4629).
While a derivative of the Bell 427, the 429 is in reality a more advanced helicopter than might be expected. The longer 429 allows more room for an emergency medical services module, it employs the all-new modular airframe concept and features the advanced rotor-blade design from the modular assembly production line (MAPL) program.
Market response to the 429 has been “very strong,” according to Bell, with more than 260 orders from approximately 30 countries and representing the company’s focus on the law enforcement, emergency medical and offshore support markets.
Certification of the 429 comes even as Bell makes plans to gradually discontinue production of the 206B, 210, 427 and 430 to make room for the popular 407 and a ramp-up to production of the 429.