In a choreographed display of lights and music, Bell Helicopter unveiled three refined mock-ups of its new, five-seat “short light single” (SLS) helicopter–now officially renamed the “505 Jet Ranger X”–this morning at Heli-Expo in Anaheim, Calif. The company previewed the SLS concept with an announcement and renderings last year at the Paris Air Show.
Bell has begun taking orders for the new helicopter this week at Heli-Expo, but declined to publicly set a price. However, a Bell spokesman said the 505 is designed to “be price competitive” with the $839,000 Robinson R66, a helicopter that has reinvigorated the light single market with nearly 500 delivered since its FAA certification in October 2010. Bell exited the light single market that same year, halting production of its iconic 206 Jet Ranger after 43 years and more than 7,500 delivered, but vowing to return to the market.
Those plans have now taken tangible form. The 505 mock-ups feature an unusual level of detail and are fitted in utility, executive/passenger and law enforcement configurations complete with searchlight and FLIR camera. In fact, the utility mock-up closely resembles a prototype aircraft and is fitted with real main rotor blades, transmission, working flight controls and Turbomeca Arrius 2R engine.
Bell plans first flight before the end of the year and starting production in 2015 at a new assembly facility being built at the Lafayette (La.) Regional Airport.