- 01 Mar 2023
- Mike Chase
- Helicopter Comparisons
Bell is one of the best-known names in the turbine helicopter market, with the manufacturer responsible for a range of turbine helicopters that hold appeal to the VIP and corporate sector. Today part of Textron, Bell continues to manufacture, innovate and upgrade platforms with a wide range of capabilities.
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The price of a Bell helicopter on the pre-owned market will depend on its age, size and maintenance condition. For example, a 2016-model Bell 206 L4 LongRanger costs $1.9m, whereas a much larger 2016-model Bell 429 costs $5.7m, according to Aircraft Bluebook’s Fall 2022 data. Older pre-owned helicopters cost less, with a 2004 model Bell 407 costing $1.5m and a 1980-model Bell 222A costing as little as $400k. These values represent the average retail price for the model (in relation to the production year). Sale prices of individual aircraft may differ, depending on several airframe- and engine-specific factors.
In October 2022 there were 7,654 Bell helicopters flying worldwide, per JETNET. The Bell 206-B3 has the largest in-operation fleet, with 1,642 units. At the time of writing, there had been 3,711 retirements from a total 11,463 units built.
Bell helicopters offer a wide band of maximum ranges, from 123 nautical miles with the Bell 214B up to 325nm with the Bell 427, according to Conklin & de Decker data.
Bell manufactures helicopters for a wide range of users and markets, meaning its helicopters compete with a wide range of other models on the market. In the single turbine market, Airbus, Enstrom, MD Helicopters, Leonardo and Robinson all produce competitive models, with pre-owned options available from AgustaWestland and Eurocopter. Airbus, Leonardo and MD Helicopters also produce light multi-engine turbine models to compete for market share with Bell helicopters. And, Airbus, Leonardo and Sikorsky build medium multi-engine aircraft similar to Bell. Airbus, Leonardo and Sikorsky all produce models, alongside Bell, in the heavy twin-engine turbine market.
Bell Helicopter Turbine Helicopters Overview
By Gerrard Cowan - Editor, Aircraft Reviews
The OEM has been a significant developer of aircraft aimed at VIP and corporate users, stretching back to the 1950s with the Bell 47J, a single-engine helicopter that was the first such platform to transport a US president (Dwight D. Eisenhower). Since then, Bell has developed a number of popular turbine helicopter models.
The Bell 204 and Bell 205 are commercial variants of the UH-1 ‘Huey’ and the larger UH-1H, respectively. The Bell 204 has a large, open cabin space, with large doors that provide easy passenger access, and is powered by a 1,000shp Lycoming T5309A turboshaft. The Bell 205, meanwhile is powered by a Lycoming T5313 engine and can carry up to 14 passengers, as compared with a maximum of 10 in the Bell 204.
Bell 206/407 Family
Another significant example is provided by the various configurations of the Bell 206 single-engine turbine helicopter which can carry four passengers and one crew member, and was produced for over 50 years until 2017. This began with the Bell 206A, which was later upgraded to the Bell 206B, a variant that brought a new Allison 250-C20 engine.
The 206B-2 and 206B-3 JetRanger III brought further enhancements to the engine and other aspects of the aircraft. The latter was a particular success, with just under 2,500 206B-3 aircraft – powered by a single Allison 250-C20B turboshaft – produced between 1997 and 2010.
There have been a range of iterations since, including the Bell 206L LongRanger, a stretched variant capable of carrying five passengers. And a twin-engine variant, the Bell 206LT TwinRanger, was also produced.
Today, the range is represented by the Bell 407, which is derived from the Bell 206L. The most modern version, the Bell 407GXi has a Rolls-Royce 250-C47E/4 turboshaft engine with dual full authority digital engine control (FADEC), and a Garmin G1000H NXi integrated flight deck.
Building on the Bell 204 Legacy
The Bell 212 was produced between 1968 and 1998, and was an enhanced version of the Bell 204. The Bell 212 is twin-turbine helicopter, fitted with Pratt & Whitney PT6T-3 Twin Pac engines.
Bell has also made executive versions of other aircraft, notably the Bell 222B and the Bell 230. The Bell 222B Executive is a luxury version of the 222B, and was built in the 1980s and 1990s, powered by Lycoming LTS101-750C engines.
The Bell 230 was produced in the early 1990s, and was powered by Allison 250 engines. A larger version – the Bell 430 – was manufactured for more than a decade from the mid-1990s.
Introduced in the early 1980s as an improved version of the Bell 212, the twin-turbine Bell 412 helicopter remains in production today. When compared to its predecessor, the Bell 412 introduced a new, four-bladed rotor with elastometric bearings, and without the normal hinges, helping to improve performance and significantly cut back on noise and vibration (appealing to many VIP and corporate users).
It can hold up to 13 passengers and two crew members, and is powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T-3B engine. The modern variant is the Bell 412 EPI, powered by two Pratt & Whitney PT6T-9 Twin-Pac engines, and featuring a glass cockpit. Bell has also worked with Subaru to produce the Subaru Bell 412 EPX.
The Bell 429 GlobalRanger was certified in 2009. Capable of carrying seven passengers with a pilot, the aircraft has a range of 411nm. Its large, customizable cabin is well suited to VIP/corporate customers.
Bell 505 and 525
The Bell 505 Jet Ranger X was unveiled at the Paris Air Show 2013, but has already made a significant market impact, combining power, a comfortable cabin and cutting-edge equipment, including its Garmin G1000H NXi avionics. Powered by a dual-channel FADEC Turbomeca Arrius 2R engine, the Bell 505 can hold one pilot and four passengers.
The manufacturer also markets its Bell 525 Relentless helicopter to the VIP/corporate domain. The aircraft – in production since 2015 – can provide seating for 16 passengers and two crew members. It is powered by General Electric CT7-2F1 engines with FADEC, and features Garmin G5000H avionics that include the first touchscreen glass flight deck designed for helicopters, according to the company.
Read the latest Bell Turbine Helicopter Comparisons by Mike Chase