Bell Locks Down Design for GlobalRanger
On Friday, Bell Helicopter’s 429 team froze the final exterior profile of its light twin-engine helicopter after months of development flight testing. Since introducing the Bell 429 GlobalRanger at Heli-Expo 2005, Bell has flown two prototypes for more than 400 hours of flight testing. One aircraft is now in Colorado performing high-altitude testing and the other is in Arizona for high-temperature trials. The 429 employs 10 of the 13 “critical technologies” that form the basis of Bell’s MAPL (modular affordable product line) philosophy. Those technologies are rotor blade fabrication technique; blade tip shape; autopilot; aircraft data interface unit; cockpit; dual hydraulics; cabin; tail-rotor drive shaft; skids or retractable landing gear; and avionics suite. To date, Bell has received customer purchase agreements for more than 240 copies of the $4.865 million (2007 dollars) GlobalRanger. First delivery is slated for late next year, and the company plans to ramp up production to 60 aircraft per year by 2011.