While Bell Helicopter proved at Heli-Expo that the 505 Jet Ranger X is already a contender in the SLS market, there are some formidable platforms in this class of helicopters that have already been established. What follows are four comparable five-seat light turbine helicopters that Bell will have to work very hard at beating out for the much-desired pool of customers. One component that the 505 has established is a first-class avionics suite, an important offering that most of the platforms on this list are currently lacking. Target missions for this segment of the helicopter market include helicopter training, personal transportation, law enforcement and emergency medical transport, among others.
The five-seat Bell 505 Jet Ranger X will be equipped with a Garmin G1000H integrated avionics system. With first flight scheduled late this year and certification expected in 2015, actual performance specs are not yet available, and the numbers provided show only preliminary data.
- Price (approximate): $1,000,000
- Engine: Turbomeca Arrius 2R
- Horsepower: 504 shp
- Seats: 5
- Length: 42.4 feet
- Height: 10 feet
- Fuselage width: 60 inches
- Cabin volume: 61 cubic feet
- Main rotor diameter: 37 feet
- Tail rotor diameter: 5.4 feet
- Useful load: 1,500 pounds
- Max usable fuel: 91 gallons
- Full fuel payload: 881 pounds
- Cruise speed: 125 knots
- Max range: 360 nm
Airbus Helicopters EC120
The EC120’s 504-horsepower Turbomeca Arrius 2F engine drives a three-blade main rotor and a Fenestron tail rotor, which produces less noise and reduces the chance of a tail rotor strike. The EC120 is the biggest and fastest in this class and comes standard with air conditiong, two reasons why its base price hovers way above that of the others on this list. Airbus Helicopters is still looking for a replacement of the GNS 430W that was an option for a GPS/navcom before Garmin took it off the market.
Robinson R66 Turbine
Robinson certified the R66 in 2010 and with 192 R66s delivered in 2013, this model is the leader in the short light single-engine turbine helicopter market. While it does not have a fully integrated avionics system, the R66 recently added several glass options, incorporating Aspen’s PFD and MFD combination, and Garmin’s GTN 600 and 700 series of touch screens. Despite its low base price and operating cost, the R66’s speed and range are right on par with its competitors’, giving it more bang for the buck.
Originally named the Hughes OH-6, the MD 500 was the platform that beat out Bell’s JetRanger in the competition for an Army contract in the early 1960s. While the design has continued to see some success in the military arena, it has been even more popular in a variety of civilian missions. The MD 500E stands out from this crowd with its five-blade main rotor, which can be spun by a Rolls-Royce 250-C20B derated from its maximum power capacity of 420 shp to 375 shp or the 250-C20R capable of producing 450 shp.
Enstrom Turbine 480B
At 115 knots, the Enstrom lags behind its competitors by at least 10 knots. But the 480B’s performance and handling qualities are targeted more for the training market. The tail rotor of the 480B is unblocked, which minimizes the potential for loss of tail rotor effectiveness. Hovering and autorotation are simplified by the three main rotor blades and high inertia rotor system. Basic avionics are included, but Enstrom expects Garmin’s G1000H system to be available as an option by the time this article goes to print.
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