When Bell decided to produce an eight-seat, single-pilot IFR twin-engined helicopter, there was a choice of updating its 427 model or starting with a blank sheet.
It chose the latter, using its modular affordable product line system (MAPL). This is a technology think-tank that studies how to produce an aircraft that the customers want, is cost effective and is manufactured easily with modules.
The result was the 429. Instead of Bell's usual method of taking a visual flight rules ship and adding an instrument flight rules kit, the airframer chose to produce a fully single-pilot IFR machine from the outset. This was one of the many customer requirements/inputs.
Others included :
There is such attention to detail that the aircraft can be configured for corporate use (VIP interior) emergency medical services (two litters with two to three medical attendants), law enforcement with swivel seats, utility or offshore. The offshore arrangement has the flotation gear and life rafts on one bar of the skids with a quick release control connection. The customer can order one, two or no rafts.
© Bell Helicopter
Pilot requests contributed to the Bell 429 design
There are five-passenger seating arrangements from four large plush seats with cocktail cabinet to two rows of three each. The front row can be forward or rearward facing. The 429 is the only helicopter in its size to offer two rows of forward facing seats. Seat widths are 39cm, 47cm and 55cm. They are sited on rails and can be individually removed and replaced.
All seats have shoulder harnesses, the passengers three-point, the pilots four. All are crash attenuating. Each seat has its own light, air conditioning vent and intercom plug-in receptacle. The lights can also be controlled by the pilot. There is plenty of leg and head room.
Because of the wide range of possible tasks, Bell has given the 429 a wide range of centre of gravity, both fore and aft and lateral. This allows a 272kg hoist to operate outboard of the skid gear. No ballast is required for the majority of missions.
The two front crew seats are ergonomically designed, fully adjustable with adjustable lumbar support. This makes a pleasant change from some of the "planks" that your test pilot has sat on in some older cockpits. There is ample head room for a tall pilot wearing night vision goggles or helmet. The goggles are optional.