Bell puts 429 EMS Demonstrator into Europe as weight issues continue

Bell puts 429 EMS Demonstrator into Europe as weight issues continue 15 May, 14, Source: HeliHub.com

On May 3rd, Bell’s 429 demonstrator was shipped into their European base at Prague in the Czech Republic.  Within four days it had arrived in the UK where it has been demonstrated to Bond Air Services this week and is expected to visit other operators in the air ambulance market as well.  The helicopter is scheduled to be at the EBACE exhibition in Geneva on May 20-22 and the Farnborough Air Show in the UK on 14-20 July.  Bell are being coy about other destinations, although confirmed “France” to start with, but with 6-7 weeks to fill between those two events, there are no doubt other locations scheduled.  The HeliHub.com team will aim to record the other countries the demonstrator visits around Europe in future news postings

Bell continues to lobby EASA on the highly-controversial attempt to persuade them to flex the certification rules for the 429, which has been approved to the CS27 standard – a category which goes as far as 7,000lb mtow only.  Bell took the corporate decision not to design the 429 to the more-demanding CS29 standard from the start, which is applicable to all aircraft from 7,000lb and upwards.  Instead they are aiming to get EASA to allow the 429 to be certified at 7,500lb mtow without including the various significant modifications needed to fall within the CS29 rules.  If they had started at the drawing board with the CS29 rules, the CS27 approval would have been easy as it is effectively a subset of CS29.  But they didn’t.

Bell is also approaching the FAA on exactly the same lines with their parallel FAR27 and FAR29 rules.  A selection of other countries have already approved the 429 to 7,500lb, including Canada where the 429 is made, and thus has a national incentive to support the manufacturer.  Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Ecuador, India, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Thailand, Venezuela and Vietnam have joined Canada in approving the higher weight level.  Bell is seeking support from trade organisation GAMA and “the rotorcraft community” in lobbying FAA and EASA according to representative Brian Bianco.

Other manufacturers are watching progress very closely and will surely appeal if the FAA and/or EASA allow the 429 at the higher weight level.  When HeliHub’s Jeremy Parkin interviewed AgustaWestland CEO Daniele Romiti last November, he clearly hit a “raw nerve” with just the slightest mention of the subject.  Fixed wing manufacturers would be equally affected, although both Cessna and Beechcraft are sister companies of Bell within the Textron group.

Meanwhile, some European 429 operators are already limiting operations due to weight-related issues – see Sweden – Gotland EMS Bell 429 range limited by weight issues

Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com

Photo copyright 2014 Václav Kudela and used here with permission

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