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Bell targets mid-November for Jet Ranger X first flight

Bell Helicopter is targeting mid-November to perform the maiden sortie of its new 505 Jet Ranger X as activity on the initial flight-test vehicle accelerates.

Speaking at last week’s Farnborough air show, Paul Griffiths, new development prototyping lead at the airframer, said the prototype’s cabin has arrived at Bell’s Mirabel, Canada facility ahead of final assembly.

First flight is scheduled for “mid-November”, he adds.

Trials of the new Turbomeca Arrius 2R engine are also under way at the French manufacturer’s Bordes site. The powerplant ran for the first time in April, but recent test points for the new turboshaft include runs at maximum continuous power of 457shp (341kW), said Scott Donnelly, president and chief executive of Bell parent Textron during a second quarter earnings call on 22 July.

Bell is yet to release an official maximum take-off weight for the 505, but does list its maximum useful load as 1,500lb (680kg). However, says Griffiths, this will increase “as there is more weight to come out” as the development process continues.

Bell hopes to increase the use of composite materials in the cabin structure, including out-of-autoclave-produced composite door panels, says Griffiths. Adopting this manufacturing process also allows costs to be reduced, he says.

List price is currently pegged at $1.07 million, allowing the Jet Ranger X to effectively compete with the Robinson R66 in the segment.

Total orders for the helicopter “are closing on 250” says Bell, with 40 alone coming from Europe.

So far, the 505 has only been offered in a commercial or parapublic guise. However, Bell is eyeing the possibility of offering it as a primary military trainer for an unnamed Asian country.

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