Bell focuses on to-do list as 429 certification nears

 - February 20, 2009, 6:36 AM

Bell Helicopter’s Model 429 is nearing the certification home stretch, with FAA approval now planned in the second quarter this year, roughly half a year later than projected at last year’s Heli-Expo. A small number of items,  are still to be resolved, according to a spokesman, and Bell’s program office is working with FAA certification authorities to complete the final steps. Flight testing exceeds 1,600 hours, with five helicopters in the flight-test program. Deliveries will begin shortly after certification.

A 429 in corporate configuration equipped with enhanced noise-dampening insulation, upgraded carpets and a choice of four-, five- or six-seat passenger configurations is on display at Bell’s Heli-Expo booth (No. 3975). The four-seat configuration will feature 21.5-inch-wide seat cushions in a facing club setting with center consoles between the seats. The five-seat configuration features two 21.5-inch seats with center console opposite three facing 18.5-inch-wide seats; the six-seat layout has all 18.5-inch-wide seats. Doors and headliners will have leather insets that match the seats. Custom configurations are also available.

Bell has orders for 330 of the $4.865 million (2007 $) 429, and 60 percent of those orders are from outside the U.S. Final performance numbers are expected to exceed preliminary estimates in terms of top speed (better than 142 knots with skids) and service ceiling, which has been validated at 20,000 feet. Some changes resulting from flight testing include a more sculpted vertical fin to increase anti-torque authority and addition of a strake to the left side of the tailboom to improve handling qualities.

Powered by two Fadec-controlled Pratt & Whitney Canada PW207D1 turboshafts (730 shp max), the 429 seats eight and will fly 350 nm or 2.25 hours. Mtow is 7,000 pounds, useful load 2,700 pounds, cabin volume 130 cu ft, baggage volume 70 cu ft and standard fuel capacity 215 gallons. The baggage compartment opens on the side, but rear clamshell doors will be an option.

The new twin’s avionics include two Rogerson Kratos LCDs, dual Garmin GNS 430s, Safran dual digital three-axis autopilot with stability control augmentation system and Honeywell enhanced ground proximity warning system.

Other features include a composite tail-rotor driveshaft and composite rotor-and-hub system. Equipment options include wheel landing gear, a tail rotor guard, cargo hook with 3,000-pound capacity, 600-pound-capacity external hoist, skid-mounted flotation system, dual pilot controls, four-axis autopilot and cockpit voice/flight data recorder.

Frasca is building a 429 level-7 flight training device for Bell’s Customer Training Academy at Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, Texas. The initial transition course will consist of 32 classroom hours, 6.5 hours in the training device and 5.5 hours flying the 429.