Bell Unveils New 407 Models at Heli-Expo

Bell Helicopter has introduced two new variants of its light single-turbine Model 407—the armed 407AH for export parapublic customers and commercial 407GX with Garmin G1000 glass cockpit. Both helicopters are making their debut this week at the Heli-Expo show in Orlando, Florida.

Development of new variants of the best-selling 407 is part of recent efforts by Bell to revitalize its commercial helicopter business, which suffered a lack of investment while the company struggled to turn around major military rotorcraft programs. “The V-22 and H-1 programs required significant investment and attention, and Bell did not pay as much attention as it should have [to the civil helicopter market],” says Larry Roberts, senior vice president of commercial business.

Bell 407

The company became complacent, he says. “We have a very large installed base, but commercial customers can always change their minds. We have to keep with technology, and always have new products to present.” The new 407s are Bell’s first new commercial products since the Model 429 light twin was certified in 2009.

Bell encountered problems late in development of the all-new 429 and certification was delayed, the helicopter arriving as the commercial market plummeted into a deep recession. The company delivered just one aircraft in 2009, but 20 in 2010 and expects to hand over another 50 this year as the market shows signs of a recovery by 2012, Roberts says.

The Garmin glass cockpit in the new 407GX has a pair of 10.4-in. liquid-crystal displays and such standard equipment as synthetic vision, terrain awareness warning and traffic information systems. The avionics can measure engine, system and performance parameters, which can be downloaded for flight operations quality assurance.

A camera system, activated by a switch on the collective control lever, allows the pilot to ensure the tailrotor is clear in tight landing zones and in flight. The 407GX was to be certified by Heli-Expo, with deliveries to begin in the third quarter. At $2.65 million, the GX comes in at $125,000 more than a standard 407.

Commercial 407GX’s dual large Garmin liquid-crystal displays include synthetic vision.

The 407AH, to be qualified and available for sale at Heli-Expo, is aimed at parapublic missions such as border patrol. The aircraft can carry a 7.62-mm minigun and 2.75-in. rockets. The cockpit is equipped with Garmin G500H flight displays and a monitor for the forward-looking infrared sensor. Countermeasures are optional.

The AH is intended for direct commercial sale to foreign customers at a price—the $5 million range—significantly lower than for a dedicated military helicopter, says Roberts. The aircraft is “completely different” to any offering Bell plans to make for the U.S. Army’s Armed Aerial Scout requirement.

 

aviationweek.com

 

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