Bell Helicopter is to halt production of several commercial models, including the long-running 206B JetRanger, to devote capacity to its newer, higher-selling aircraft.

The company will phase out production of the 206B3 light single-turbine helicopter, 427 light twin and 430 intermediate twin, as well as the Bell 210 civil version of the UH-1, by 2010.

Bell 429 blue
Bell 429                                                                 © Bell Helicopter

At the same time, the company will increase production capacity for the single-turbine 407, Model 412 medium twin and its new 429 light twin. "We are fully booked on these models until 2010," says Bell chief executive Dick Millman.

The company's commercial helicopters are manufactured in Mirabel, near Montreal by Bell Helicopter Textron Canada. Millman says the move will significantly  increase overall commercial helicopter production capacity while eliminating production of lower-volume products.

The widely used 206 JetRanger has been in production since 1966, with the 206B3 JetRanger III being introduced in 1977. The 427 entered service in 2000, but has always been a slow seller and was due to be replaced by the larger 429 now in the final stages of development.

The Bell 430 was introduced in 1994 as an upgrade of the Model 230, inself and improved version of the Model 222 dating back to 1974. Although admired as a smooth performer, sales of the 430 have slowed in recent years.