While the Bell 427 has struggled for acceptance in the helicopter community, one LongRanger derivative that has been a success from the start is the single-engine 407, which has sold in the hundreds since its launch in the late 1990s. Its hot-and-high performance was most recently confirmed in July, when a 407 landed on a Himalayan peak at an altitude of nearly 25,000 feet.
During July trials aimed at the Indian army, a Bell 407, flown by senior experimental test pilot Eric Emblin and flight-test engineer Ed Lambert, landed on Tillcho Peak in the Mustang area of northern Nepal at a density altitude of 24,971 feet (22,180 feet pressure). The feat was the climax of a week-long program of demonstrations and testing, which included low-speed controllability flights, IGE/OGE hover checks and general performance evaluations, all at altitudes higher than 18,500 feet.
The team operated out of Jomsom Airport (elevation 8,800 feet) and performed most of the test sorties in and around the Mustang District area. The tests were conducted to verify performance capability outside the current published 407 flight envelope and were necessary to pursue, as Bell puts it, “key international military programs.”
Bell’s six-member flight-test team was led by Steven Woolston, director of Asia Pacific programs, and Dale Cato, program manager for light helicopters. Emblin, who conducted all of the high-altitude flights, confirmed that they “pushed the helicopter to the edge of its operational capabilities. It delivered as predicted, demonstrating plenty of margin everywhere.” Additional team members included experimental flight mechanic Steve Bornais and Rolls-Royce executive Chris Ankrom. Only daily preflight inspections were required to maintain serviceability.