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Most interesting facts about Bell 206 helicopters

One of the most reliable and capable helicopters, the Bell 206 helicopter is a multipurpose utility aircraft that entered the world of rotor-powered flight in 1967. Developed from Bell YOH-4, the Bell 206 is a family of two-bladed, single, and twin-engine helicopters popular among all types of commercial and private users. Bell 206 helicopters are widely used for VIP transport, law enforcement, medical evacuation, search and rescue, aerial photography, etc.

Fishtail Air - Aviation Nepal
Bell 206 helicopter operated by Fishtail Air

Interesting facts about Bell 206

1. Bell 206 is the third most produced helicopter with more than 8400 Bell Jetrangers built during its 44 year period.

2. American aerospace manufacturer Bell Textron originally designed Bell YOH-4 for the competition organized by the United States for Light Observation Helicopter (LOH). One of the five YOH-4 prototypes, YOH-4A, was designated under the new Joint Services designation system and had some unpleasant characteristics compared to the other aircraft in contention. The US Army rejected the Bell YOH-4A in favor of Hiller’s YOH-5 and Hughes YOH-6 as it used 250 shp + 63-A-5 which underpowered the prototype aircraft. The aircraft encountered marketing problems, a lack of cargo space, and cramped seats.

Hughes OH-6 won the military bid and was awarded a production contract. Despite the initial failure, Bell redesigned the airframe and set the stage for a sleeker, more aesthetically pleasing design that would become the company’s most successful commercial aircraft: the Bell 206A Jet Ranger. It was a 5-seat commercial helicopter with a redesigned fuselage, sleek and aesthetically appealing image and was developed from the popular 47J Ranger model.

When the U.S. Army again solicited a response from aircraft manufacturers for Light Observation Helicopters (LOH) in 1967 due to the failure of the aircraft division of Hughes Tool Co. to meet production demand contract, Jetranger’s new design won the contract and the Bell 206A was designated as the OH-58 Kiowa in honor of the Native American tribe in 1968.


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3. The Bell 206, although initially designed for civilian use, also serves military use for countries like Albania, Argentina, USA, Iran, Finland, Canada, etc. . As such, it has civilian and military variants.

Civil variants of Bell 206 helicopters include Bell 206, Bell 206A, Agusta-Bell 206A, Bell 206A-1, Agusta-Bell 206A-1, Bell 206B, Agusta-Bell 206B and Bell 206B-2, Bell 206B-3, Bell 206L LongRanger, Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II, Bell 206L-1+LongRanger, Bell 206L-3 LongRanger III, Bell 206L-3+LongRanger, Bell 206L-4 LongRanger IV, Bell 206LT TwinRanger, Bell 407, Bell 417, HESA Shahed 278, etc

Similarly, military variants of the Bell 206 family include Bell 206AS, Bell CH-139 Jet Ranger, Hkp 6A, Hkp 6B, OH-58 Kiowa, TH-57A Sea Ranger, 206L TexasRanger, TH-57B, TH-57C Sea Ranger, TH-57D, TH-67 Creek, etc. The myriad features of the Bell 206, including reliability, safety, mission flexibility, and low operating and maintenance costs, make this rotorcraft an invaluable asset to the military.

4. The Bell 206 helicopter is a workhorse with the most reliable airframes. Bell 206 paved the way for many of the helicopter missions that most of these flying machines perform today, such as aerial photography, aerial spray application, firefighting, platforming turbine transition instruction, transportation, medical, etc.

Bell 206 Jet Ranger

Standing 10.8 feet tall and 39.2 feet long, this Bell JetRanger is a lightweight, single-turbine helicopter that can accommodate a single pilot and three passengers. The Bell 206 Jet Ranger is the best-known and most-loved of all rotorcraft that has set a record for industry-standard safety and reliability, extreme versatility, and no-frills design. This turbine-powered light utility aircraft served the “booming” offshore world, delivering respectable and reliable performance at a price you could trust, even in today’s skyrocketing fuel cost environment.

JetRanger is one of the most popular single-engine turbine models with over 7,000 built worldwide, accumulating over 38 million flight hours. Flying at a cruising speed of around 120 mph for two hours and forty minutes before refueling, it has good performance and efficiency. It has a maximum gross weight of 3200 pounds and can carry 250 pounds of cargo.

Another reason that makes the Bell 206 Jet Ranger one of the most popular single-engine helicopter series is its ability to do the heavy lifting with maneuverability in a light space. It strikes a fine balance between payload, range and maintenance.

Simple and clear 206 JetRanger

The Bell 206 JetRanger excelled in critical helicopter operating environments such as long working hours and offshore operations. Its time-tested two-blade system promises endurance and simplicity and is not heavy to maintain. The advent of the JetRanger III in 1977 significantly improved the aircraft’s power by fitting the new Rolls-Royce 250-20J engine with shaft power.

Another interesting fact about the Bell 206 helicopter is that it has the lowest overall accident rate. It handles many top-to-bottom critical components and rider stresses and has a reliable motor.

Prototype model: Bell 206L Longranger

The Bell 206L Longranger is a stretched seven-seat variant featuring an even more powerful engine, larger rotor, greater fuel capacity and a stretched 760mm fuselage introduced in 1977. The Bell LongRanger has an overall length of 42.4′ and a height of 10.9. Like the Bell 206 B3, it is also a single-engine helicopter and cruises at an average speed of 110 knots at a range of 260 NM. Accompanied by a spacious cabin that can comfortably accommodate five passengers, it surpasses most single-engine helicopters in terms of versatility and performance. It has a very reliable civilian utility function providing a smooth ride in virtually any weather condition.

Bell 206L Longranger, photo from Wikimedia

In 1981 the military version of Longranger, 206L TexasRanger, was introduced, replacing the original Allison 250-C20B engine with more powerful versions. Over 1700 units have been produced so far to serve a more excellent range of industries, especially rescues and medical transfers.

In June 2017, Bell Company ceased production in favor of a 4-blade relative, the Bell 407.

TwinRanger and Gemini ST

TwinRanger is a twin-engine version of LongRanger, designated as “B06 T” and developed in the mid-1980s. Based on the 206L-4, the Bell 206LT TwinRanger was first delivered in January 1994. The 206L-4 is a modified aircraft featuring reinforced airframe structural components, an improved transmission and an advanced engine that increases the aircraft’s overall performance. It is downgraded to 495hp for takeoff.

TwinRanger

Only 13 206LTs in total were produced by Bell Helicopters, as they were eventually replaced by mostly new Bell 427s.

Gemini ST is a twin-engine conversion of LongRanger developed by Tridair Helicopters in 1989 which began its maiden flight on January 16, 1991. In mid-1994, Gemini ST received a certificate as the first single/twin aircraft, which subsequently led Bell Company to build the Bell 206LT TwinRanger.

Bell 407 – Bell LongRanger development

In 1995, Bell Helicopter began New Light Helicopter development on the successor to JetRanger, the Bell 407. Instead of JetRanger’s standard 2-blade semi-rigid oscillating rotor system, Bell 407 uses a four-bladed flexible in plan. . First flown on June 29, 1995, the Bell 407 replaced the Model 206 series. Although the Bell 407 offers better performance, more comfortable rides and wider internal cabin space than its predecessor, it is not not as popular as the Bell 206 series, proven by only over 1400 numbers built so far.

Bell 206 helicopters – aircraft in fiction

The Bell 206 JetRanger was featured in the 1970s Australian series “Chopper Squad”, reflecting salvage work in Sydney. In 1971, the James Bond film “Diamonds are Forever” also featured a Bell 206B attacking Ernst Stavro Blofield’s oil rig control center. The Jet Ranger also had a notable appearance in Blue Thunder, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and more.

Notable 206 Helicopter Accidents and Incidents

Although the Bell 206 helicopter is considered the safest single-engine aircraft, several accidents have been reported. On August 27, 1990, Grammy-winning blues-rock guitarist Steve Ray Vaughan was killed in a Bell 206 helicopter crash near Elkhorn, Wisconsin at a man-made East Troy, Ski Hill, obscured by heavy fog.

On August 20, 2014, the Bell 206 helicopter crash claimed the life of the Chief of Staff of the Guatemalan Army. In February 2021, a Bell 206B JetRanger III met with an accident when it hit Mont Charvet, killing two of the five occupants.

The Bell 206 surpassed by the Robinson R44?

The iconic 4-seat Robinson R44 rocked the rotorcraft world with its versatility, piston engine power and lightweight features complemented by cheaper running prices. The R-44 became the best-selling general aviation helicopter when charter companies began trading 206 helicopters for light utility R44, with low running costs.

Bell 206 Helicopter Cost

Depending on the model, variant, and age of the flying machine, the average Bell 206 operating cost is $350 to $400 broken down per hour. This approximation takes into account fuel, insurance, stowage or storage costs in the hangar, regular maintenance inspection and landing costs. The current low purchase cost of the Bell 206 Jet Ranger is around $1.2 million, making it affordable for its operators.

Conclusion

The long-serving Bell 206 is a top favorite helicopter for military and civilian operators. Even though its production has stopped, Bell 206 continues with the next model 407 which has more improved features, high production standards and unmatched flight performance.