Bell Unwraps New 429 Light Twin Copter

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In Anaheim, Calif., at the Helicopter Association International's annual Heli-Expo convention, Bell Helicopter introduced the company's all-new Bell Model 429 light twin helicopter. Two complete mock-ups of the new copter were rolled out, a wheeled corporate version followed by an EMS version. The category A helicopter will feature a 220-cubic-foot cabin volume, which Bell says is more than 70% larger than its current light twin, the Model 427; have a useful load of 2700 pounds in a single-pilot IFR configuration; and have a range of 365 nm with full payload. For EMS operations, the 429 will include a two-patient capability, a flat floor to optimize mission flexibility and clamshell doors at the rear and sliding doors on each side of the fuselage. A new, state-of-the-art "glass" cockpit will be fitted, along with a fully coupled three-axis autopilot and what the company calls a "pilot-friendly" instrument panel. Using engines providing 1100 shp will give the 429 increased speed over other light twin copters, with improved high-altitude performance and a reduced noise signature, coming in part from a new four-blade tailrotor design. The company's design, engineering and certification plans call for the first Bell 429 deliveries in first half of 2007.