Bell Helicopter says its new light twin-turbine Model 429 GlobalRanger has been “very stable and predictable” in its initial flight tests. The helicopter is being developed and flight tested by Bell’s Canadian subsidiary in Mirabel, near Montreal.

Since the 429 first hovered on 27 February, Bell has fitted production rotor blades to replace the prototype blades used on the first flight. New software has also been loaded that makes the display more representative of the production aircraft.

“All indications are positive and the pilots have said that the handling was well balanced and the aircraft was a pleasure to fly,” says Bell.

The company is building five 429s for flight tests leading to certification in late 2008 or early 2009. Deliveries will begin soon after, and Bell says it has more than 190 orders for the light twin.

The 429 is the first new helicopter to be developed under Bell’s Modular Assembly Production Line (MAPL) programme and incorporates 10 MAPL technologies including the new rotor system.