Bell 407GXi. Photo courtesy of Bell
While the FAA has validated the design of the Bell 407 GXi, Bell continues to seek IFR certification of the rotorcraft in advance of the U.S. Navy competition to replace its fleet of TH-57 Sea Ranger training helicopters.
"Validation of an aircraft design is unrelated to IFR regulations," the FAA told R&WI. "The FAA has reviewed and approved ('validated') the design of the Bell 407GXi, which was previously certified by Transport Canada. Validation was conducted following the protocols established in the signed agreement between TCCA and FAA (see Implementation Procedures for Airworthiness (Revision 2)."
Felicia Carpenito, a spokeswoman for Bell, wrote in an email Oct. 30 that the company's 407GXi team "is actively working with the FAA on instrument flight rules (IFR) certification."
The U.S. Navy has said that "an FAA-certified IFR platform … will be required at the time of proposal submission" for the TH-57 replacement.
Airbus is pitching the twin-engine H135 helicopter as the U.S. Navy’s next trainer in a near-reprise of its offer of the H145 to the Army to replace its TH-67 Creek trainer, while Leonardo is offering its TH-119 single-engine helicopter, which the company is vaunting for its twin-engine-like performance. Both the H135 and the TH-119 are IFR-certified.
Helicopter industry officials have sought to facilitate FAA certification of single-engine rotorcraft, like the Bell 407 GXi, for IFR. The Vertical Flight Society has said that "there is broad consensus throughout the rotorcraft industry and operational community that equipage and training for IFR operations in single-engine helicopters has the potential to make a significant impact on safety."
"AHS International and our partner associations believe that the unacceptable number of lives lost due to inadvertent instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) or controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents in single-engine helicopters that result from low-level flight to avoid weather can be easily addressed if the FAA facilitates IFR certification of single-engine helicopters through the new Safety Continuum policy," AHS has said. "In addition, the expanded use of IFR operations has the potential to improve the safety for Part 29 by encouraging the more ubiquitous use of IFR."
In the Navy TH-57 competition, Bell executives say that the 407GXi represents a best-value offer for the Navy, as the rotorcraft, like the TH-57, is based on the Bell 206 Jet Ranger, which also was the basis of the U.S. Army’s now-retired OH-58 Kiowa armed scout helicopter.