Bell’s latest helicopter, the Bell 525 “Relentless”, is heading to Yellowknife Canada to begin it’s cold weather testing. The testing will begin in early 2019. The Bell 525 is a fly-by-wire medium lift helicopter, marketed for Oil and Gas operations, SAR operations also. Susan Griffin – executive vice president of commercial business at Bell – reported “significant progress” on the aircraft’s flight test activities in 2018, including the completion of hot and high tests. Bell now has three active Relentless on the test program with a fourth on the way. The aircraft combined have over 900 flight hours. Two aircraft (ships two and three) will head to Canada for the cold-weather trials in the new year, which are expected to last several months. A third aircraft (ship four) will head to New York state for snow testing, and the fourth (ship five) is expected to begin flight tests around the same time.
The Bell 525 program had a major setback in 2016 when Bell 525, N525TA, crashed. The NTSB Official report reports found that the crash was caused by unanticipated severe vibrations as the aircraft attempted to recover rotor RPM following a one-engine inoperative (OEI) test at 185 knots.
Bell claims the aircraft will be the most technologically-advanced helicopter ever to be certified in its category (part 29, 14 Code of Federal Regulations), with its fly-by-wire controls enhancing safety and reducing pilot workload; a “precedent-setting” drive system that meets the latest European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) standards for run-dry performance (and tested to over an hour); and a technologically advanced, low-switch cockpit. It will certainly be the first commercially-certified fly-by-wire aircraft.
When certified, the super-medium aircraft will be entering a difficult offshore oil-and-gas market that has been enduring some of the most significant headwinds in its history. There, it will compete against the Airbus H175 and Leonardo AW189 – and Bell believes it will also compete against the heavier Sikorsky S-92.