Re-entering the short light single turbine market with a newer and more modern-looking helicopter, Bell revealed the last generation of the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X launched on February 25, 2014 at HAI HELI-EXPO in Anaheim, CA. Why the “last” you ask? Shouldn’t it be the “latest” one? First, let’s consider this: since the introduction of the Bell 47, do you know how many helicopters were designed or adapted for the private market?
No less than nine models already exist, and the new Bell 505 will be the tenth. With this newest model, private helicopter owners throughout the world will enjoy an unprecedented choice to fulfill their flying needs.
At the entry-level, the two-place Robinson R22 Beta II is perfect for training centers, along with the new R44 Cadet. Then comes the Robinson R44, with close to 6,000 units delivered, which certainly helped make helicopters more accessible. Among high-end models, we find the H120 (EC120), the Robinson R66 Turbine and the new Bell 505 Jet Ranger X. However, in this category, sales volume is much smaller. For example, the H120 has only reached 700 units sold—despite entering service in 1998 — and Airbus ceased its production in 2017. Even the Robinson R66—finally certified in 2010—had only reached 750 units sold by the end of 2016. We can safely assume the volume for high-end helicopters to be about 750 units.
Despite launching with an MSRP of about $1M, must-have options actually bring the selling price closer to $1.3M. This positions the Bell 505 somewhere between the R66 (at $900K) and H120 (at $1.8M).
There’s now a full range of helicopter models for private owners, from entry-level all the way to turbines. In the coming years, R&D costs can only go up. On the other hand, we doubt sales volumes for private owners will increase, making it impossible to offer a new helicopter in this crowded market at a lower price.
For these reasons, we expect the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X will be the last helicopter designed for private owners. We’ll probably see different engine options—talks of diesel and electricity are often overhead at manufacturers—but it’s unlikely that completely new models will join the fray.
During an evening of 2010, a group of Bell Helicopter engineers met to kick off work on a challenging mission from the company President: “You need to design a new aircraft that combines the proven capabilities of the Jet Ranger with next generation performance and reliability.” Three years later, during the 2013 Paris Air Show, Bell unveiled its plans to manufacture the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X: a new, short and light single engine helicopter for commercial customers. By the end of 2016, the Mirabel facility located in Quebec, Canada held a Certification and Production Roll-Up Ceremony for the first units, to be delivered in early 2017. Based on the specifications, we think the Bell Helicopter team deserves a pat on the back: the new Bell 505 Jet Ranger X certainly meets the lofty goals set years ago. In the meantime, we’ll do our best to introduce the Bell 505 with a series of videos.
Now this is a game changer. All other helicopters were designed before the glass cockpit technology was invented, and despite an excellent retrofit job, it’s just not the same. Designing the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X with a glass cockpit right from the start makes a world of difference.
For example, several items will be monitored automatically to reduce the pilot workload: weight & balance, checklist, priority monitoring, Power Situation Indicator (PSI) … The Garmin G1000 is also particularly well-designed. The goal of “next generation performance” has definitely been achieved!
We compared the old and new Bell Jet Rangers and struggled to find any similarities. The only thing we could see was that there were still two blades! Design-wise, the Bell 505 looks sharp — you can tell feedback was sought from potential customers. For example, the view for both pilot and passengers is a massive improvement from the previous model. In order to achieve this, engineers had to move the main mast behind the cabin, leading to new challenges regarding mass and centering… Goal achieved!
A main point brought up during client discussions was to find ways to reduce the pilot workload. By itself, the introduction of FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) alone is worth the badge of “Next Generation Performance”, and will dismiss any doubts from users. Let’s point out that the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X is the only helicopter in its category to feature FADEC technology, a premium option usually offered in much more expensive models (over $3M) like the Bell 407 GXi or H130 T2.
Next, we’ll provide a short description of the Bell 505 and its main components.
The introduction of a new helicopter model inevitably leads to client concerns regarding reliability. But again, “reliability” was a key element of the original mandate to engineers. How did they do?
No worry to be had about the engine: the Turbomeca Arrius 2R (think of it as “Arrius 2F’s little brother”) is already used by over 3,000 helicopters worldwide, and has clocked in over 6M flight hours. Engineers are so confident in its performance, the Arrius 2R will be introduced with a “time-between-overhaul” requirement of 3,000 hours right from the start.
A number of dynamic components were based on the Bell 206L4, which entered into service in 1992. The majority of the aircraft is built out of aluminum instead of carbon fiber, in order to reduce manufacturing costs. Featuring a high inertia rotor system, we can expect this helicopter to offer excellent autorotation capabilities.
Is the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X a new aircraft that combines the proven capabilities of the Jet Ranger with next generation performance and reliability? Based on what we’ve seen so far, the engineers certainly hit the mark.
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