Bell 407GXi. Image courtesy of Bell
A new dual channel FADEC engine and a cockpit capable of wirelessly uploading flight plans and downloading maintenance faults. That’s the heart of Bell’s new 407GXi, unveiled by the newly re-branded manufacturer at Heli-Expo 2018 in Las Vegas.
The 407GXi is the first rotorcraft cockpit to feature Garmin’s G1000H NXi. Bell has also upgraded the engine to the Rolls-Royce M250 C47E/4. Bell has earned Canadian type certification on the 407GXi and plans on starting the first deliveries within the next few months.
During a media visit to Bell’s manufacturing facility in Mirabel, Michael Nault, program director of light helicopters for Bell, explained the upgraded capabilities featured on the avionics and engine of the new 407. According to Nault, the control system of the engine has changed from being controlled by one single computer with a manual backup.
On the previous version, if the engine failed, the pilot could control the throttle with the twist grip in manual mode. While that may seem like a benign feature to experienced pilots, Bell was receiving many reports of inexperienced pilots having problems with overheating the Rolls-Royce M250 C47D/8 “hot and high” engine, according to Nault.
By upgrading to a dual FADEC engine, there are now two computers with two engine control channels in each FADEC box. Therefore, if a pilot is flying and experiences a failure in the primary channel on FADEC 1, he or she can switch to the primary channel on FADEC 2. If the primary channel on FADEC 2 fails, the pilot could then switch back to the secondary channel on FADEC 1.
“You can afford a third failure,” said Nault. “We added three layers of redundancy with this new engine while keeping same performance for hot and high."
The new engine is a variant of the original M250-C47E model that powers the U.S. Navy Fire Scout MQ-8C, an unmanned version of the Bell 407. The engine has the same horsepower as the previous engine featured on the 407 GXP, although Nault said it provides a 4% improvement in fuel consumption and range.
Nault also described the upgraded avionics package as going from a 1980s computer to a 2020 computer. The G1000H NXi also has an LED backdrop display, so it does not emit as much heat as the previous cockpit.
Buyers also have the option of adding the Flite Stream 510, which Garmin first unveiled for fixed-wing general aviation aircraft in 2016. The Flite Stream 510 is a multimedia card (MMC) that can provide wireless connectivity between the mobile Garmin Pilot app and GTN 650/750 touchscreen navigators. The card has built-in Wi-Fi and bluetooth functionality.
“When you land, if you had a maintenance event or maintenance log, it gets transferred from Wi-Fi back to the maintainer’s tablet,” said Nault.
The G1000H NXi is also ADS-B-compatible.
Nault said Bell is not making the GXi package available as a retrofit for the GXP, because it is a significant upgrade with new wiring and structural changes to accommodate for the new avionics and engine.