Bell Helicopter has completed the first flight of a new Modular Affordable Product Line (MAPL) tail fan demonstrator at the company's XworX research centre. Bell chief executive Mike Redenbaugh announced details of the maiden flight yesterday at the show.

The aircraft lifted into a hover, performed low-speed manoeuvres including pedal turns, and landed.


Bell says the demonstrator will be used to explore the flight characteristics of the protected, low-noise anti-torque device intended for use on Bell's MAPL line of light helicopters.

Redenbaugh said: "This is an extension of protected anti-torque development at Bell that started in the 1970s with small-scale testing and includes the Ducted Tail Rotor demonstrations done 10 years ago. We are developing a tail rotor for our customers that will be quieter, more effective, and more reliable with lower operating costs."

Test pilot Jim McCollough added: "This aircraft is easy to fly. The workload in hover is very low."

The demonstrator is an experimental Bell 407 with a 40in (1m) diameter fan and duct, which replace the 65in (1.65m) diameter tail rotor. The tail fan incorporates technology developed during bench testing completed earlier this year, many features of which are covered by new patent disclosures.

Bell says it has been designed to allow testing in multiple duct configurations, to provide information on their performance and acoustics in hover and forward flight. The test programme will be conducted at the XworX facility and at Leadville, Colorado to obtain high-altitude performance data.

The tail fan is one of a suite of new technologies being developed specifically for the MAPL family, said Redenbaugh, including an advanced rotor demonstrator planned to fly later this year.

The first MAPL aircraft is expected to be available in 2008, although some of the new technologies are mature and are being incorporated in Bell's 427i announced at HAI earlier this year.



Source: Flight Daily News