Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

As the original manufacturers of the UH-1 'Huey' and its T53 engine, Bell Helicopter Textron and Honeywell have joined forces to support foreign operators of the helicopter after it is withdrawn from US military service in 2004.


The US Army plans to transfer support of foreign-operated aircraft to the commercial market, and the Bell/Honeywell team is bidding to become the US Government's chosen contractor for the more than 3,700 UH-1s and single-engined AH-1 Cobras still in service worldwide.

The US Army announced in October last year that it will discontinue support for UH-1s after 30 September, 2004 and for AH-1s after 31 December, 2002. More than 3,000 Hueys and an estimated 700 single-engined Cobras are still flying, and the two helicopter types are expected to remain in service for at least another 20 years.

Under the commercial concept, operators will have the option of obtaining support from the chosen contractor either directly or through the existing US Government Foreign Military Sales system. The US Army plans to consign its spares inventory to the commercial contractor.

In addition to providing repair and overhaul services to operators, the Bell/Honeywell team proposes to refurbish aircraft to a configuration that is commercially sustainable. Bell already offers the Huey II upgrade, which incorporates airframe and dynamic components from the commercial Bell 212. The helicopter's Honeywell T53 turboshaft can also be brought up to commercial standard.

Transferring Huey support to the commercial market could stimulate demand for re-engining and other upgrades. Including the Huey II, no fewer than four re-engining options have already been developed for the UH-1, but there have been few takers so far.

Pratt & Whitney Canada announced in February it is to offer a fifth re-engining option, with its PT6C-67D. Arlington, Texas-based Global Helicopter Technology (GHTI) will develop and certificate the installation and has begun modification of an aircraft for flight testing beginning in July.

GHTI previously developed re-engining installations for the Honeywell T53-703 and LHTEC T800 in the Huey, but says these programmes are essentially dormant as is the General Electric T700 upgrade developed by US Helicopter. The PT6 flight test aircraft is, in fact, one of several T800-powered UH-1s evaluated by the US Border Patrol. The PT6-powered UH-1 is set to be certificated early in 2002.

Source: Flight International