Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) has certificated the Bell Helicopter 505 Jet Ranger X, giving the green light to begin deliveries for the short-range light single-engine helicopter.
Bell has secured at least 400 letters of intent spread across Asia, Europe and North America, Mitch Snyder, Bell Helicopter’s President and CEO, told reporters 21 December. With the single-pilot certification in hand, Bell can begin the process of converting those LOIs into orders. Snyder estimates the helicopter’s base price around $1 million, not including various kits and options such as air conditioning, dual pilot control, sliding windows and synthetic vision.
Bell will begin its production rate at 50 aircraft a year in 2017 and will ramp up to 150 a year by 2018. Snyder estimates Bell will take a day and half to assemble a 505 at the 150 production rate. The helicopter’s modular design will allow the quick assembly and swift ramp up, Snyder says.
“We designed it be this way,” he says. “Working with our supply chain we’ve set it up for high rate production, all assembled in Mirabel, [Canada] at that rate.”
Launched at the Paris Air Show in 2013, the 505 was originally scheduled to complete development by the end of 2015. The project was delayed partly by a decision to re-position the horizontal stabiliser to the aft end of the tail boom.
Bell's original JetRanger model — the 206 — popularlised the concept of light, single-turbine helicopter when it emerged in the 1960s, leading to more than 7,000 deliveries over more than 40 years. By the time the 505 was launched in 2013, however, Bell had long vacated the market segment for light helicopters priced at around $1 million or less. To reclaim its position in the segment, Bell recycled the rotor system of the 206L4 for the 505, packaging the proven lift system with a redesigned cabin, new engine and a Garmin G1000 avionics system.
Bell has not yet seen one demographic dominating the 505’s market share, but the company is pushing hard for trainer contracts, Synder says.
But don’t expect to see the 505 emerge as a possible candidate for the US Navy’s TH-57 trainer replacement, a variant of the Jet Ranger 206. Based on the Navy’s requirements for passengers and payload so far, Bell will market its four-bladed 407 for the trainer competition.
The Safran Arrius 2R-powered Bell 505 can reach cruise speeds of 125kt and carry 667kg (1,470lb). The Rolls-Royce 250-C47B/8 turboshaft-powered 407 has a maximum speed of 140kt and can carry 1,160kg (2,558lb).
Bell is still eyeing other trainer competitions, though Snyder could not name them at the time.
“We’ll see where the Navy goes with this,” he says. “We’re still waiting to see. They want an IFR [instrument flight role] aircraft so that also weighs into our process here.”