IS IT at all a coincidence that of the nearly 40 Bell 505 Jet Ranger X helicopters flying around Asia Pacific at present, a good chunk of these are in Indonesia and Thailand? You know, places whose capitals have traffic-choked arteries. This means the Philippines simply fits right in this portfolio, and so it isn’t unexpected for Bell Textron, Inc., the Texas-based manufacturer of Bell helicopters, to bring the 505 to the country.
Bell has actually been touring the 505 around Southeast Asia since September last year, where the five-seat light single is being pitched as an air taxi for city-bound, traffic-stymied, high net worth individuals. The heli is also finding favor with those engaged in tourism. So far it has met customers in Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam. It made stops in Laos, Malaysia, Nepal. It is being used for training cadet pilots in the Japan Coast Guard. In the Philippines, the 505 is seen to boost Bell’s sales in the next five years, with orders expected to come from both corporate suits and government alike.
“The Bell 505 is huge for us in Asia right now,” said David Sale, managing director of Bell Asia Pacific, based in Singapore.
“We are pleased with the reception the Bell 505 got from people who attended the static display and demonstration flights. The aircraft performed exceptionally well, and we believe our Philippine customers saw the value and versatility that the Bell 505 can bring to their operations,” Sale added, referring to the helicopter’s promotional activities held at the PhilJets hangar in Manila.
PhilJets services, houses or operates for customers Bell helicopters in the country. The company expects to grow its fleet of Bell helicopters with the arrival of the 505.
“We strongly believe it is the best aircraft in its segment,” said PhilJets CEO Willyn Villarica, who also said Bell enjoys a good reputation at supporting customers.
Sale noted that Bell, as a “vertical lift company,” can provide mobility solutions through products like the 505. He said helicopters offer a “third dimension” in transportation by “looking down on traffic.”
With a cabin billed as SUV-like — meaning having “theater seats,” where the backseats are perched higher than the front’s — the 505 affords passengers excellent, really excellent, views of the outside world thanks to panoramic windows. It also has huge doors, making ingress and egress graceful — or easy, at the very least. Of course, the cabin furniture can be kitted according to customer preferences.
It has a high-tech cockpit, too, fitted as it is with a Garmin G1000H avionics boasting a pair of 10.4-inch LCD screens. Available as options are a traffic information system, helicopter terrain awareness and warning system, Moving Map, Pathway in the Sky and Garmin’s Helicopter Synthetic Vision Technology.
Propelling the 505 is a Turbomeca Arrius 2R engine that has a dual-channel Full Authority Digital Engine Control system. It spins a high-inertia rotor. Working together, the pair allows the helicopter to travel at125 knots (or 232 km/h) and to haul 680 kilograms. Plus, Bell assures servicing the 505 — in the region this is done in Singapore — is not a concern as it stocks both expertise and parts for any job.
Little wonder that in Asia Pacific, helicopter rides are flying high at the moment.