Bell’s corporate helicopter

November 30, 2011 by Tim McAdams

In 1979 Bell Helicopter certified the Model 222 helicopter to target the corporate market. Although it had a sleek corporate look, the helicopter struggled to find acceptance in the business world. This was due to reliability problems with the Lycoming LTS 101 engines and the two-blade rotor design that could not achieve an acceptable level of smoothness.

As a result, Bell began working on a new helicopter that would use advanced technologies to improve the engines, rotor system, and cockpit. In 1994, with the new design not quite ready, Bell introduced the model 230 with the more powerful Allison 250-C30 engines and numerous small refinements as an interim fix for many of the 222’s problems.

Finally, in early 1996, Bell certified its next generation helicopter, the model 430, and stopped production of the 230. The Bell 430 has a bearingless four-blade composite rotor system combined with Liquid Inertia Vibration Eliminators (LIVE) mounts on the transmission that give it a smooth ride. The engines were upgraded to the more powerful FADEC controlled Allison 250-C40B and a glass cockpit was available. The airframe was stretched 18 inches making for a larger cabin and the gross weight went from 8400 lbs. to 9300 lbs. One of my favorite features is the pilot’s side (right seat) collective control that moves forward and aft in a horizontal arc instead of up and down. To me it felt more natural.

Although, a little underpowered Bell did a good job with this helicopter, it was smooth, stable and fun to fly and had gained acceptance with corporate and EMS operators. Unfortunately, in January 2008 after building 136 helicopters, Bell announced they are stopping production of the 430 citing that it is optimizing its commercial product line to better serve its customer base and accelerate deliveries of its high-demand aircraft.

Bell 430

Bell 222

  • David N

    Hi Mr. McAdams;

    Interesting piece, thanks! I do like to learn more about history on occasion.

    Just to add to the story, you make it sound like this is a historical aircraft. I work at a fractional/charter operation based near NYC and we fly five of the 430s quite successfully and reliably. Not sure where the other 131 of them are today.

    Also, they were built in both utility and corporate configurations, some on skids, some like ours with wheels, nice air conditioning and cocoons for passenger comfort.

    Best Regards, Dave

  • Ruben A Campos

    Great article as always Tim… I’ve flown in many helicopters and by far, flying the B430 was the smoothest heli I’ve flown. It’s bearingless four blade rotor system makes it feel like you are more in a Citation X rather than a rotor wing aircraft. It’s truly a shame Bell decided to stop production of this very sexy helicopter.

  • Don Gheen

    I flew a pair of new 222 U helicopters for a few years and thought they were pretty smooth riding with the nodal beam suspension and fram dampener in the nose. The 222 also had the collective control setup you mention as a feature of the later aircraft. I also liked this feature very much. I remember that the 222 did not like to slow down very quickly.

    The LTS 101 engines were a problem. We had 96 unscheduled engine changes on the two helicopters in a period of about just a few
    years. I have a bit of single engine time in those aircraft. We traded those aircraft for 412s. I flew 222s many years later and the engine problems seemed to have been taken care of. I think the engine problems were the kiss of death for the 222.

    Another problem area that surfaced after a period of time was the high tech “Capton?” wiring which had problems with the insulation on it.

    I really liked flying the 222.