Abu Dhabi Aviation will take delivery of Bell Helicopter Textron’s new 412EPI either later this year or early next year, becoming the first operator to get the new, more powerful version of Bell’s “flying pick-up truck.”
The 412EPI is designed to provide a 15 percent increase in takeoff power on hot days, a major consideration in an area where temperatures can hover over the 100 degrees F range (38 degrees C). The twin Pratt & Whitney PT6T-9 engines are FADEC controlled, compared to the 412EP powered by the non-FADEC controlled PT6T-3DF engine. This gives it improved HOGE, CAT-A and PC-2e performance.
Bell 412EPI. Photos courtesy of Bell Helicopter
In announcing the order, Khaled Mashhour, commercial director for Abu Dhabi Aviation, noted that his company has been flying Bell helicopters for “more than 30 years,” and have accumulated more than 700,000 flight hours in 212 and 412 models. They currently operate 23 412s – not counting the new 412EPI – and 19 212s, along with 15 AgustaWestland AW139s.
The new aircraft will be used for offshore operations, generally out to 150 nm or less, according to Dale Cato, Bell’s FMS program manager. “That is where the EPI would be most effective,” he said. Speaking at the Dubai Air Show, Cato explained that the new Bell 525, which is expected to fly next year, is being designed for the offshore market beyond the 150 nm range.
The EPI also has a digital glass cockpit, compared to the analog displays in the 412EP. It has the Bell BasiX-Pro integrated display system, developed jointly by Bell and Rogerson Kratos, and is the same cockpit as in the 429, Cato said. It uses the Garmin GTN 750 NAV/COM/GPS as part of the primary navigation system.
Price of the EPI is running “around $10.5 million, depending on the customer’s requirements,” he said. This compares with the roughly $9.8-million cost of the 412EP.
The EPI “is really driven by whether the customer has a requirement for FADEC with the additional performance, plus the glass cockpit, or if he looking to maintain his fleet of EPs with analogue gauges and doesn’t want to pay for the extra capabilities,” Cato said.
He also noted that the EPI does not replace the EP, and that production of the 412EP will continue. “Market demand will drive whether we keep the EP in production…but right now we are.”
The 412EPI was initially done as a supplemental type certificate (STC) in Bell’s Piney Flats, Tenn. facility “to get it to the market quicker,” Cato noted. “So we have the capability to convert the EP with an STC. Next year it will actually be available in the production line in Mirabelle, where the 412EP is built.”
Also speaking at the Dubai Airshow, Bell President and CEO John Garrison said that the Middle East has become very important to the company, with anticipated growth in the offshore and the VIP/corporate markets. He noted that Bell helicopters account for roughly a quarter of the total helicopter fleet in the Middle East and Africa, and that Bell expects that percentage to grow with product upgrades such as the 412EPI and 407GT.
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