Bell 429 GlobalRanger VH-MJI (c/n 57043) at Camden, NSW in April 2015 (David C Eyre)
Country of origin:
United States of America
Light utility helicopter
Two 529 kw (710 shp) Pratt & Whitney Canada PW207D turboshafts
- Fuselage length: 12.17 m (39 ft 11 in)
- Width: 2.36 m (7 ft 8 in)
- Height: 4.04 m (13 ft 3 in)
- Cabin volume: 5.66 m³ (199.87 cub ft)
- Max speed: 264 km/h (164 mph)
- Hovering ceiling in ground effect: 3,658 m (12,000 ft)
- Hovering ceiling in ground effect: 2,835 m (9,300 ft)
- Range: 648 km (403 miles)
- Fuel capacity: 738 litres (162 Imp gals)
- Endurance with IFR reserve: 3.8 hours
- Empty weight: 1,950 kg (4,300 lb)
- Loaded weight: 3,175 kg (7,000 lb)
- Cargo hook capacity: 1,270 kg (2,800 lb)
- Useful load: 1,225 kg (2,701 lb)
The Bell 429 was a light twin-engine helicopter produced by Bell Helicopter Textron at its facility at Fort Worth, Texas, in the intermediate class cabin category with a flat floor to provide, in the air medical mission role, easy passenger access. Seating up to seven passengers, with a crew of two, it was available with a variety of seating arrangements. It could be obtained with a skid undercarriage, or an optional factory-installed wheeled undercarriage. A baggage compartment was available with access from the rear or side. The tail-boom was of composite construction.
The Model 429 was said to be not so much a derivative of the 427 but a hybrid of that model incorporating nine modular affordable product line improvements, these including the fuel tank under the floor, flight controls routed through an area behind the pilot’s seat, a glass cockpit, main rotor and four-blade tail rotor. It had a three-axis fully coupled autopilot, dual hydraulic system in all three axes, and room for growth and mission flexibility.
At its unveiling at the 2005 Helicopter Association Convention at Anaheim, California on 6 February 2005, Bell announced it had orders for 90 examples of the new design, the Model 429 GlobalRanger, many of these being converted from orders for the Model 427, reaching 136 in early 2006. It had integrated sliding doors and optional clamshell doors for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) operations.
Modified prototypes of the Model 427 were used to test various components of the new design, and the prototype of the Model 429 flew in late 2006. At that time the manufacturer had completed concept demonstration tests, wind-tunnel tests, and inlet and exhaust testing. Optional kits to meet customer requirements included a 1,361 kg (3,000 lb) cargo hook, a 272 kg (600 lb) retractable hoist outside the skid undercarriage, two-patient capability with both attendants at the patient’s head, high and low skid undercarriage, tail rotor guard, and a high density layout for one pilot and eight passengers. Cabin volume was 6.23 m³ (220 cub ft).
Power plant was the Pratt & Whitney PW207D with Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC), each engine providing 529 kw (710 hp) for five minutes, 466 kw (625 shp) max continuous, and 611 kw (819 shp) for 30 second emergency. A key aspect of the programme was the participation of Korea Aerospace Industries and the Mitsui Bussan Aerospace Company of Japan as risk-sharing partners. The Korean company had been involved in building the cabin for the Models 412 and 427 and was delegated to build cabins for the Model 429. Final assembly has taken place at the Bell facility at Mirabel in southern Quebec, Canada, where flight testing of completed aircraft took place.
Largest initial order for the type was for ten aircraft, announced on 26 February 2006, for CJ Systems Aviation Group in the United States, this company providing air medical services in the United States and operating a fleet of more than 115 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft from approximately 80 base sites throughout the country.
The prototype C-GBLL (c/n 54801)) flew for the first time on 27 February 2007 at the Company’s Mirabel facility, this being the first of five aircraft to be used in the certification programme.
In early 2006 the Australasian distributor, Hawker Pacific, announced it had ordered six Bell 429s for local customers, three having already been sold, with first deliveries to begin in 2008.
In the event, after completing 2,300 hours of flight testing using five prototypes, Bell received certification for the Model 429 on 1 July 2009, the Company at that time holding Letters of Intent for 301 aircraft, with 59 from the Asia Pacific region, particularly for EMS and corporate operators.
First of the type seen in this region was a demonstrator for the local distributor in 2010, this being N10984 which arrived in August 2010, and was demonstrated to a number of operators across the country before being air-freighted to Hong Kong.
First customer delivery was on 7 July 2009 to an operator in Denver, Colorado, with production to increase to 92 examples delivered in 2012. The machine was nominated as a contender for the Australian Defence Forces’ Helicopter Aircrew Training system program in 2011.
On 19 September 2011 the Royal Australian Navy entered into a contract with Raytheon Australia to obtain three Bell 429s for intermediate pilot training for Navy pilots to prepare them for operational flying in the MH-60R combat helicopter, this being the Retention and Motivation Initiative Agreement that was put in place. These Bell 429s became VH-NPP (c/n 57047 – ex N455KB, C-GLCV, C-GFNO) on 23 February 2012 and was removed from the register on 30 May 2012 when it became N49-047 with the RAN; VH-NPQ (c/n 57048 – ex N455MB, C-GLFX, C-GLZK) registered on 20 March 2012 and removed from the register on 30 May 2012 when it became N49-048 with the RAN; VH-NPR (c/n 57049 – ex N455NB, C-GLIK, C-FOFG) registered on 20 March 2012 and removed on 30 May 2012 when it also became N49-049 with the RAN.
These machines were provided to No 723 Squadron at Nowra and were operated for a period of four years under a lease which included support and maintenance, delivery taking place during 2012. In August 2015 a further example was obtained to join No 723 Squadron, this machine becoming VH-POJ² (c/n 57218 – ex N542PB, C-FDOW, C-GADH) on 24 July 2015, being removed from the register on 14 December that year and becoming N49-218 Code ‘050’ with the RAN. The contract concluded in April 2019 and the aircraft were withdrawn from RAN service and sold, a couple going to New Zealand.
First of the type registered in New Zealand in the civil role was ZK-IXW (c/n 57026) registered on 20 January 2011 to Advanced Flight of Auckland. Further examples have also been registered, one being ZK-HXW (c/n 57175 – ex N503EC), followed by ZK-IUL (c/n 57015 – ex VP-CUL) registered in July 2014 to Advanced Flight Ltd. Auckland police in New Zealand operated three Bell 429s, the unit known as Police Eagle Helicopters moving its base in mid-2018 from Mechanics Bay to Onehunga at Auckland airport. A further Model 429 became ZK-HUU (c/n 57246 – ex N544RF) to Oceania Aviation Ltd.