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Sun, Feb 22, 2009

HAI2009: Bell Updates Status Of 429 Program

Announces EASA Maintenance Program Approval, Improved Speed/Range 

In conjunction with Heli-Expo 2009 -- which opens Sunday in Anaheim, CA -- Bell Helicopter provided status and performance updates on its ongoing 429 development program.

Unveiled at Heli-Expo 2005, Bell has taken a deliberate road in bringing its new twin-turbine standard-bearer to market... a timeframe Bell's senior VP of Customer Support and Chief Support Officer, Danny Maldanado, acknowleged.

"There is so much more to building a new helicopter than just producing the aircraft," he said. "Over the past three years we have had teams of people working to make sure the proper support structure will be in place to ensure our customers get the training and logistical support they will need to successfully operate the 429."

Maintenance support has been a critical focus for the Bell team. On Saturday, the helomaker announced the Bell 429 will be the first commercial new generation light twin to be listed on the EASA maintenance program.

A Customer Maintenance Advisory Panel is in place to develop the Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (ICA's) using a process known as MSG-3. Using a systems analysis approach to maintenance, MSG-3 ensures aircraft safety and operational economy, minimizes deterioration of the inherent aircraft reliability and associated costs, and minimizes on-aircraft failures through preventative maintenance. Bell hopes to receive ICA acceptance from Transport Canada, EASA and the FAA in the near future.

Neil Marshall, commercial program director for the 429 program stated, "As we approach the certification date we are working internally to coordinate our efforts to support this helicopter from day one so our customers receive the world-class customer support they have come to expect from Bell Helicopter."

Marshall also provided the most recent performance data accumulated during the on-going flight test program. The 429's maximum airspeed in level flight with maximum continuous power (Vh) has improved from 142 to 147 knots with skid gear. Maximum range at Vh has increased from 312nm (578km) to 332nm (615km), Virc (long range cruise) range has increased from 350nm (648km) to 364nm (674km) and maximum endurance from 3.8 to 4 hours. The 429's HIGE has grown from 11,000 ft (3353 m) to 14,200 ft (4328 m) and HOGE from 9,300 ft (2835m) to 11,300 ft (3444 m).

"As we work our way through all the required test points established in our flight test program, we continue to be pleased with what the data is telling us. Without exception we are exceeding every preliminary performance goal we set going into the program," Marshall said. "The aircraft is proving to have excellent ride quality and the lowest take-off and approach noise level of its class. It has outstanding Cat "A" performance and exceptional center of gravity envelope."

Standard specifications show the cabin volume has grown from 200 cu ft (5.7 kg) to 204 cu ft (5.8 Kg) while empty weight has increased by 60 lbs, reducing the useful load from 2700 lb to 2640 lb.

FMI: www.bellhelicopter.com

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