US airframer Bell Helicopter is maintaining a year-end target for certification and first delivery of its new 505 Jet Ranger X light single.

Although November had been suggested as a likely date for Transport Canada approval of the helicopter, Bell declines to provide a precise timeline, simply saying the milestone will be achieved “before the end of the year”.

Although the bulk of flight-testing has now ended, a number of outstanding items remain, particularly in relation to the optional mission equipment on early-build examples.

The airframer is continuing to convert over 380 letters of intent (LoIs) for the Jet Ranger X, although it will not reveal how many have been firmed. “We are very encouraged by the conversion rate,” it says.

Production of the Safran Helicopter Engines Arrius 2R-powered 505 is shortly to begin at its new Mirabel, Canada final assembly line, it says, having been moved from a previous site in Lafayette, Louisiana earlier in 2016.

In addition, Italian firm Mecaer Aviation Group is thought to be working on a new VVIP cabin for the 505. “We think that helicopter could use an enhanced interior as opposed to the very Spartan one that’s there now,” says a source.

Bell declines to confirm that the 505 is next in line for the VVIP cabin development, however. “If it makes sense for us to do it then we will certainly look for partners like Mecaer to do it,” says director of sales and marketing support Chuck Evans.

Armando Sassoli, general manager of business development at Mecaer, says he is hopeful that it can announce a version of its MAGnificent interior, which was so far been unveiled on the 429 and 525, on “a smaller helicopter still produced by Bell”.