Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison told AIN that his company deliberately opted to use proven technologies on its recently announced super-medium twin, the 525 Relentless.
“We’re optimizing the aircraft around fly-by-wire [FBW] flight controls. We have two decades of fly-by-wire experience with the V-22 [Osprey military tiltrotor] and 15 years in the 609 [civil tiltrotor program recently acquired by former development partner AgustaWestland].”
Garrison said scale mock-ups have already been tested in the wind tunnel at the University of Texas-Austin. He credits Bell’s customer advisory panel with promoting the idea for the helicopter’s sidestick cyclic, and he noted that the 525’s FBW system will allow pilot and copilot to feel each other’s inputs and will allow them to get to FBW limits and then fly past them with “technical cueing.”
“They will be able to get the full range of mobility and capability from the system,” he said.
While Bell’s XworX research lab has been involved in new-technology blade research, Garrison said the company decided to go with traditional main rotor blades on the 525. “It’s an optimized blade structure both for life and cost that will provide the capabilities we need,” he said. “We’re working things that are farther downstream like active flaps, but for this time line we are not willing to take that level of risk on the program. We just couldn’t get comfortable with some of the emerging technologies on blades.”
Garrison did not rule out bringing at least one airframe partner on board the 525 program. “We’re looking at that. On the airframe side there are some potential partners that we are in detailed discussions with, but it is too early to announce anything yet,” he said.
Bell previously partnered with Korea Aerospace Industries and Mitsui Bussan Aerospace of Japan on the Bell 429 light twin and with China’s Hafei Aviation (Avic) on the now out-of-production Bell 430 twin. Garrison said he expects that the 525’s rotor and transmission systems will be fabricated at Bell facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, as will some of the composite parts for its fuselage. Bell said it will assemble the 525 at its Amarillo, Texas plant, the current home of the V-22 tiltrotor assembly line.