The Bell 429 mockup at Bell Helicopter’s exhibit here in Geneva illustrates the increasing attraction of the EBACE venue beyond the strict confines of corporate aviation. Why else, one may ask, would the U.S. rotorcraft manufacturer choose to display the new, twin-engine light helicopter with an emergency medical service (EMS) interior instead of a sleek corporate cabin?
“Bell has a small share of the EMS market in Europe, because we have not had an aircraft that could compete,” explained Scott Fitzgerald, vice president of Europe/Africa/Middle East sales. As a percentage, that market share is in single digits, he said. Bell will also show the 429 mockup at the ILA (Berlin) and Farnborough (UK) airshows.
Fitzgerald described the European EMS market targeted by the 429 as one that requires an IFR, single-pilot, twin-engine helicopter with an mtow below 8,000 pounds and enough room in the cabin for full access by medical personnel to a patient on a litter. The 429–7,000 pounds mtow, flat-floor, enough room for two litters and optional rear clamshell doors–easily fits this niche.
Bell plans first flight of the 429 for this fall and first deliveries next year. More than 190 are on order, with four going to European EMS operators. The first of these should appear in this part of the world in late 2007 or early 2008.
Here in Geneva, Fort Worth, Texas-based Bell Helicopter is also showing an example of its light, single-engine Model 407 owned by HeliTeam Sud of Germany. It is outfitted for executive charter but was actually delivered equipped for electronic newsgathering. HeliTeam uses it for both, said Fitzgerald, who added that the ability to easily change mission equipment in the 407’s cabin is one of the helicopter’s more appealing characteristics.
The 5,000-pound-mtow Bell 407 sells for just under $2 million. With more than 750 delivered worldwide in its first decade, it is Bell’s best selling single-engine turbine helicopter. About 30 are operating in Europe and another 20 are on order for companies in this area. Fitzgerald said 407 production is sold out through 2008.