Bell Helicopter has rolled in a new upgrade for the Bell 429 light twin helicopter: wheeled landing gear.
The retractable system replaces the familiar landing struts and skids on Bell helicopter products, allowing especially VIP operators the ability to taxi around confined airports.
“Now with the wheeled landing gear, it will open an additional market,” says Danny Maldonado, Bell’s executive vice-president of sales and marketing.
The Bell 429’s VIP operators often fly short distances on point-to-point flights, but are prohibited from some airports if they are unable to taxi from a landing spot to a parking area.
“They need the wheeled landing gear so they can taxi,” Maldonado says.
There is a penalty for some customers who buy the wheeled landing gear version. The upgrade adds 113kg (250lb) of gross weight to the Bell 429.
In the USA, the non-wheeled Bell 429 is already near the 3,175kg weight limit for a FAR Part 27 certificated helicopter. Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration denied a request by Bell Helicopter for an exemption, although several other regulators have approved the waiver.
Bell is still waiting for the FAA to decide whether to accept the company’s appeal.
“We’re just waiting for a response,” Maldonado says. “With the [two-week US government] shutdown, it probably delayed things a little bit.”
Meanwhile, operators in countries that have approved the waiver, including Canada and Brazil, can operate the wheeled 429 with no weight penalty.
The retractable system on the Bell 429 will be followed next year by a similar wheeled landing gear on the super mid-size Bell 525 Relentless.
The Bell 525 is scheduled to complete first flight next year, along with the short light single model that Bell introduced at the Paris Air Show.
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