Bell launches Honeywell HTS900-powered 417 to rival Eurocopter Squirrel

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Bell Helicopter launched the Model 417 light turbine single at this week’s Heli-Expo show in Dallas, Texas. The 417 is a hot-and-high derivative of Bell’s Model 407 light commercial helicopter (pictured below), with a new cockpit, rotor system and the more powerful Honeywell HTS900 turboshaft.

bell 407 flying w445


A prototype modified by Bell’s XworX research centre from a used 407 will fly in April, says 417 programme executive director John Ricciardelli. Certification and first deliveries are set for early 2008, with the 417 to be produced alongside the 407 at Bell’s Mirabel plant near Montreal, Canada.

The 417 is intended to compete head-on with Eurocopter’s AS350B3, which is becoming increasingly popular, particularly in Europe, according to Honeywell’s latest civil turbine helicopter market outlook . The 417 is priced at $2.11 million in 2008 dollars, about $300,000 more than the 407.

As well as replacing the 407’s 813shp (605kW) Rolls-Royce 250 with the 970shp HTS900, the 417 has a new all-composite main rotor derived from that on the Model 430 intermediate twin, a beefed-up tailboom and more powerful tailrotor from the Model 427 light twin. Gross weight is increased to 2,495kg from the 407’s 2,270kg. The 417 has a Chelton electronic flight instrument system with two 150 x 200mm (6 x 8in) liquid-crystal displays as standard. The same cockpit is available as an option on the 407. The new avionics and engine will reduce operating costs, says Ricciardelli.

Compared with the AS350B3, the 417 has a higher gross weight, competitive hot-and-high useful load and superior hover out of ground-effect, says Ricciardelli, adding: “The market is expanding. There is room for both the 407 and the 417.”

The 417 was formerly the 407X and is the basis of Bell’s RAH-70 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) for the US Army, the first of which will fly “just a week or so” after the 417 prototype. “The 417 will do the airframe/engine integration work before the ARH flies,” Ricciardelli says.

GRAHAM WARWICK / DALLAS