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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Testing Progresses on Bell 525, 505

Bell Helicopter is targeting the 505 JetRanger X for certification later this year.
Photos courtesy of Textron Inc.

Bell Helicopter is stepping up marketing of its newest civil aircraft as testing progresses on the super-medium twin 525 Relentless and the light single 505 JetRanger X.

Both helicopters are to be featured at Bell’s exhibit at Heli-Expo early this month in Louisville, Kentucky. The manufacturer is bringing the second 525 prototype, the blue-and-white Flight Test Vehicle 2, and the third 505 prototype, the purple Flight Test Vehicle 3, to the Kentucky Exposition Center.

Program managers express satisfaction with the performance to date of the prototypes.

“It’s uncanny how close the actual aircraft’s performance has been to the analytical predictions,” said Larry Thimmesch, vice president of commercial program and–until recently–head of the 525 program.

The leader of the 505 effort, LaShan Bonaparte, said she expects to brief Heli-Expo attendees on that aircraft’s preliminary performance data.

Bell plans to fly the No. 2 525 to Heli-Expo in Louisville, Kentucky, where the company will gauge market interest in the aircraft.
Bell has logged more than 500 flight test hours on the 505. Flight Test Vehicle 1 has retired from the flying, Bonaparte said, and it now will undergo ground-run testing of its drivetrain.

The No. 2 505 is being used for functionality and reliability testing, some avionics testing and checkouts of optional equipment kits.

The 505 has undergone hot-and-high testing in Colorado and cold-weather testing in Montreal. In addition, Bell has started structural testing of 505 components to support type certification of the aircraft.

“I fully expect certification to happen this year,” Bonaparte said.

On the 525 side, Bell is preparing for the third prototype to enter flight test; it will be used for load-level surveys and other work. Program leaders are taking to the field to explain the Relentless’ safety and performance features. These include the twin’s fly-by-wire flight controls, triplex-redundant systems and maintenance cost guarantees.

Plans call for Flight Test Vehicle 2, which first flew on Dec. 21, to fly to Louisville for Heli-Expo. The first flight was conducted with the fly-by-wire system engaged from liftoff.

Bell has adjusted development plans slightly given the plight of the offshore segment; it has moved up development of some corporate/VIP kits for the aircraft. Bell is working on about 50 equipment kits to incorporate in the 525’s type certification.

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