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Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III vs Airbus EC-120B

How do they compare for payload, range, speed, cabin size & market values?

Mike Chase   |   2nd March 2015
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In this month’s Aircraft Comparative Analysis, Mike Chase provides information on a selection of new and pre-owned Single-Engine Turbine helicopters for the purpose of valuing the Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III.

The field for this month’s Aircraft Comparative Analysis includes the pre-owned JetRanger III and new and used Airbus EC-120C helicopters with values ranging between $350k-$1.8m.

Within our analysis, we’ll consider the usual productivity parameters – including payload, range, speed and cabin size, and cover current market values.

Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III vs Airbus EC-120B

Brief History

The genus of the Bell 206 single turbine series helicopter dates from 1966. The 206B-3 JetRanger III replaced the 206B JetRanger II in 1977 and was produced until 2010. There are currently 1,904 206B-3 helicopters flying today, and 2,478 that were manufactured during the 1977-2010 timeframe, representing the largest number of a single model of all 206 series helicopters produced.

The 206B JetRanger II aircraft could be modified to a model 206B-3 JetRanger III by the completion of Service Instruction 206-112 (which requires the installation of the Allison 250-C20B engine). One crew and four passenger seats are available on the 206B-3.

It is interesting to note that the Bell 206 series makes up 61% of the 10,300 units Bell Helicopter has produced. All told, Bell has produced 40% of all the Commercial Western-built helicopters (per JETNET records in February 2015).

Of the 1,904 wholly-owned Bell 206B-3 helicopters in operation worldwide, just 15 are in shared ownership. According to JETNET, an additional 3% of the Bell 206B-3 helicopters are leased. By continent, North America houses the largest fleet percentage (56%), followed by South America (12%) and Europe (11%) – that’s a combined total of approximately 80%.

Payload & Range

The data contained in Table A is sourced from Conklin & de Decker and B&CA’s May 2014 issue. A potential operator should focus on payload capability. The ‘Available payload with Maximum Fuel’ for the Bell 206B-3 is 208 lbs, which is significantly less than the EC-120B (383 pounds).

Also note the fuel usage by each helicopter model in this field of study: The Bell 206B-3 at 25.2 gallons per hour (GPH) leads the EC-120B as the most frugal. The Bell 206B-3 shows 10.6% less fuel burn with the Rolls-Royce engine than the EC120B, according to Aircraft Cost Calculator.

AC Table A March15

Cabin Cross-Sections

According to Conklin & de Decker, the cabin volume of the Bell 206B-3 (54 cubic feet) is exactly the same as the EC-120B (54 cubic feet). The respective cabin cross-sections are represented, courtesy of UPCAST JETBOOK, in Chart A.

AC Chart A March15

Range Comparison

As depicted by Chart B, using Louisiana, USA as a departure-point, according to Aircraft Cost Calculator the Bell 206B-3 shows slightly more range coverage than the EC-120B. By using Louisiana, the range circle map also shows the range coverage for off-shore destinations as well, illustrating the attraction of these helicopters for off-shore utilization.

Note: The lines depicted do not include winds aloft or any other weather-related obstacles.

AC Chart B March15

Powerplant Details

The Bell 206B-3 is powered by a single Rolls-Royce 250-C20J powerplant. The EC-120B offers a higher power rating value with 400 SHD transmission from its Turbomeca Arius powerplant [transmission rating is a limiting factor in the total rated and usable engine power output]. The Bell 206B-3 engine offers a transmission rating of 317 SHD.

Total Variable Cost

The ‘Total Variable Cost’ illustrated in Chart C is defined as the Cost of Fuel Expense, Maintenance Labor Expense, Scheduled Parts Expense and Miscellaneous Trip Expense. The Total Variable Cost for the Bell 206B-3 shows a higher cost at $572, or 1.4% compared to the EC-120B at $564.

AC Chart C March15

Aircraft Comparison Table

Table B contains the 2007 retail prices from Vref pricing guide for each helicopter. The average speed, cabin volume and maximum payload values are from Conklin & de Decker, while the number of aircraft in-operation and percentage ‘For Sale’ are as reported by JETNET.

AC Table B March15

The Bell 206B-3 has 6.3% of its fleet currently ‘For Sale’. Evidently Bell 206B-3 helicopters make an attractive proposition with a monthly average of 12 units sold over the past 12 months, compared to the EC-120B with 4 units sold per month, on average.


Depreciation Schedule

Helicopters that are owned and operated by businesses are often depreciable for income tax purposes under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS). Under MACRS, taxpayers are allowed to accelerate the depreciation of assets by taking a greater percentage of the deductions during the first few years of the applicable recovery period (see Table C).

AC Table C March15

In certain cases, helicopters may not qualify under the MACRS system and must be depreciated under the less favorable Alternative Depreciation System (ADS) where depreciation is based on a straight-line method meaning that equal deductions are taken during each year of the applicable recovery period. In most cases, recovery periods under ADS are longer than recovery periods available under MACRS.

There are a variety of factors that taxpayers must consider in determining whether a helicopter may be depreciated, and if so the correct depreciation method and recovery period that should be utilized. For example, aircraft used in commercial charter service (i.e. Part 135) are normally depreciated under MACRS over a seven-year recovery period or under ADS using a twelve-year recovery period.

Helicopters used for qualified business purposes, such as Part 91 business use flights, are generally depreciated under MACRS over a period of five years or by using ADS with a six year recovery period. There are certain uses of the helicopter, such as non-business flights, that may have an impact on the allowable depreciation deduction available in a given year.

Table D depicts an example of using the MACRS schedule for a 2007 model Bell 206B-3 helicopter in private (Part 91) and charter (Part 135) operations over five and seven-year periods, assuming a Vref Pricing guide retail value of US$900k.

AC Table D March15

Asking Prices vs AFTT, Age & Engine Thrust

Chart D, sourced from the Multi-dimensional Economic Evaluators Inc. (www.meevaluators.com), shows Value and Demand for the pre-owned Bell 206B-3 and EC 120B. The current pre-owned market for these Helicopters shows a total of 189 aircraft ‘For Sale’ with 124 displaying an asking price, thus we have plotted those 124.

AC Chart D March15

The equation that we derived from these asking prices and from other criteria should enable sellers and buyers to compare, and perhaps adjust their offerings if necessary. Demand and Value are on opposite sides of the same Price axis.

The Demand Equation for both vehicles is Price = 3,483,000 Qty-0.455. This power equation is very well correlated, with an adjusted R2 of 99.9%, and a P-Value of 2.32 E-05.

The Linear Equation describing used Airbus EC-120B helicopter value is Asking Price = $1,638,000 - 52,600 Qty. While this equation is only fairly well correlated with an R2 = 60.7%, its P-Value (the chance that this equation came about by chance) is 4.30E-11, so we choose to use it. The Linear Equation describing used Bell 206B-3 helicopter value is Asking Price = $1,255,000 - 21,250 Qty. It is better correlated with an R2 = 67.8%, with an attendant P-Value of 1.22 E-19. Thus, in this market the Bell 206B-3 depreciates at $21,250/year, less than half the depreciation of that for the Airbus EC-120B, for which asking prices fall by $52,600 per year.

In order to try to keep the analysis similar with respect to the age of the vehicles, we restricted the age of the Bell fleet to approximately that of Airbus (in this case, limiting the Bell age to 19 years), we found that Bell 206B-3 depreciation was $38,600 per year (but correlation was poor at 35.6%, though this equation passed the common P-Value threshold of 0.05 with a reading of 0.031). Based on our experiment in limiting the study years for the Bell 206B-3, we expect that the EC-120B will depreciate less each year on average the longer that it is on the market. Interestingly, power form equations (like that used for demand) did not work as well as linear equations in predicting depreciation.

Productivity Comparisons

The points in Chart E are centered on the same group of aircraft. Pricing used in the vertical axis is as published in the Vref pricing guide. The productivity index requires further discussion in that the factors used can be somewhat arbitrary. Productivity can be defined (and it is here) as the multiple of three factors:

1. Range with full payload and available fuel;
2. The long range cruise speed flown to achieve that range;
3. The cabin volume available for passengers and amenities.

The result is a very large number so for the purpose of charting, each result is divided by one billion. The examples plotted are confined to the aircraft in this study. A computed curve fit on this plot would not be very tight, but when all helicopters are considered the “r” squared factor would equal a number above 0.9. Others may choose different parameters, but serious business aircraft buyers are usually impressed with Price, Range, Speed and Cabin Size.

AC Chart E March15

After consideration of the Price, Range, Speed and Cabin Size, we can conclude that the Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III, as shown in the productivity index, is productive compared to the EC-120B. Both helicopters metrics are quite similar and each has its own attributes. The Bell 206B-3 has slightly more range and uses less GPH. It is very popular in the pre-owned market. The EC-120B, meanwhile, has more available payload with maximum fuel, but uses more gallons of fuel per hour.


Within the preceding paragraphs we have touched upon several of the attributes that helicopter operators value. However, there are often other qualities such as service and support that factor into a buying decision, and are beyond the scope of this article.

The Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III helicopter fares well among its competition - so those operators in the market should find the preceding comparison of value. Our expectations are that the Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III will continue to do very well in the pre-owned market for the foreseeable future.

Read more about: Operating Costs | Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III | Airbus EC-120B | Aircraft Depreciation

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