PRODUCTION OF Bell Helicopter Textron's Model 407 light helicopter, launched in February, is sold out until mid-1997. The company has firm orders for 105 aircraft, with company demonstrators and other commitments taking the number of delivery positions accounted for to 140.

Production at Bell's Canadian plant will reach seven aircraft a month in mid-1996, exceeding the four-a-month rate of the current 206L-4 light-helicopter line, says product manager for commercial development Dale Cato. Bell plans to certificate the four-bladed 407 in December, and deliver the first aircraft in February 1996.

The first of two prototypes, is scheduled to be flown in June and both aircraft are to be in flight test, at Bell's Mirabel, Quebec plant by mid-July. The first production 407 is to be flown in September, and four aircraft are to be completed by the time of certification.

Cato says, that the company has successfully tapped, the 206 replacement market with the 407. At $1.2 million, the helicopter is priced just slightly higher than the current 206L-4 and has essentially similar operating costs, with a larger cabin, higher payload and performance and extended overhaul intervals. The 206L and smaller 206B will continue in production, he says.

Chief of the 407 project engineering, Rodney Taylor says, that Bell can meet its cost goals for the new helicopter, if production of certain components is moved to Canada. Dynamic systems for all Bell commercial helicopters are now manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas.

Taylor says that Bell is about to begin flight tests of the Chandler Evans full-authority digital engine-control (FADEC) system planned for the 407's 915kW (685shp) Allison 250-C47 turbo-shaft. The single-channel FADEC, will be flight-tested on the 407 concept demonstrator, a modified 206L, which Bell has been flying since late 1994.

Source: Flight International