Rangers always come back
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Rangers always come back

The creator of one of the first commercially successful helicopters Bell 47 was Arthur Middleton Young - a talented young engineer, and also a philosopher. First, Young invented and introduced a two-bladed main rotor with a common horizontal hinge into the helicopter’s design, and then went deeper into the knowledge of being and wrote a whole library, trying to understand how this story goes around in circles. And here is the paradox: while Young wrote all this, the rotor he invented walked in a circle, and each of his return brought to life a new helicopter. When in 2014 the first light ascended into the sky Bell 505 Jet Cleaning XThe rotorcraft romantics realized that the main rotor of history made a complete revolution.


The success story of Bell helicopters, which ultimately led to the debut of our hero, began during the Second World War, when the young and ambitious Arthur Young seduced the management and shareholders of Bell Aircraft to deal with new aircraft - helicopters. Many in those years, not without reason, believed that the eccentric enthusiast knocked out respected people on a gamble: in fact, who needs these strange rotary-winged cuttlefish, the lot of losers and crazy Russian emigrants? Even compromises somehow.

But Arthur Young knew what others did not know: right now, in 1942, helicopter aviation is entering a new stage. Helicopter, this puzzlingly complex and monstrously high-tech aircraft, which for two decades tormented its creators with a stubborn reluctance to fly normally, ultimately surrendered under the pressure of theoretical knowledge accumulated by aviation science. Finally, it was possible to move from experimentation to the creation of the first helicopters for special purposes. And, although a considerable part of the helicopter’s characteristics was still in the “gray zone”, although the resource of the machines before the first repair was 100-200 flight hours, it was no longer a fair focus, but a product of unique quality that could be sold for a reasonable price. And what, no matter how the instinct of future profits distinguishes a true businessman?

The success of the creative alliance of Arthur Young and Bell Aircraft was in the features of the rotor created by the designer. The two-bladed main rotor with a common horizontal hinge (party nickname "Rocker") has its own specific features. It leaves a certain imprint on the behavior of a helicopter in the sky and the piloting technique that a pilot must adhere to in order to survive before the birth of his grandchildren. But the main thing is that it is simple. Of course, not as simple as the rocker of a village woman, but in any case it is much simpler than screws with spaced joints. A much cheaper rotor hub is a big gain in the price of the helicopter and the cost of ownership, in design resources, in the time and money spent on maintenance and repair.

What, in essence, did Arthur Young suggest to the owners of Bell Aircraft? The second place after Sikorsky in the then world helicopter rating. And already in 1946, the company aptly shot its Bell 47 into the market - the world's first certified civilian helicopter, the leader of the commercial market of the post-war decades, the hero of dozens of movies and one of the legends of the world helicopter aviation. Perhaps, in terms of design, the Bell 47 was not the best helicopter in the world, but it turned out to be the most in demand then. A start was made.

Rangers always come back

The years have passed. Elegant jazz orchestras were replaced by some noisy guys with guitars and drums. Barefoot denim ragged women with long hair roamed the streets of American cities, indistinguishable from the same patched denim ragged women. The world entered a different era, literally everything changed. Big changes also took place in helicopter aviation: time-tested piston engines quickly lost ground to turboshaft engines (TVAD). Light and compact, TVAD allowed to significantly increase the weight of the structure, they were more conveniently located in the fuselage, freeing up additional volumes for fuel, passengers or cargo.

After the resounding success of the Iroquois gas turbine, Bell's second masterpiece, whose two-bladed Yang rotor was already flapping over the jungle of Vietnam, in 1963 the company presented a new development to the military - the light 4-seater Ranger gas turbine reconnaissance helicopter. And - these are the times! - lost the competition to the Hughes 500, which showed higher maneuverability on tests.

The impressive military performance of the Hughes was achieved by using the innovative design of the articulated rotor, the hub of which was studied around the world as a masterpiece of helicopter engineering. But Bell did not give up. The incredible potential of the new product, fortunately, the competitors did not manage to evaluate in time, but then everything came to one point:

- the proven design of an advanced two-blade rotor, which gives the above advantages;

- Bell's considerable experience in expanding into the civilian market and knowledge of its needs;

- Modern small-class TVAD, brought by designers to an acceptable level of reliability and suitable for installation on a light commercial helicopter;

- and, finally, the most important thing: in the USA and the rest of the world a helicopter boom broke out.

Eaten up by the economic growth of America's Golden Age, and considering the helicopter to be an early replacement for the car, the US market was ready to accept a commercial gas turbine helicopter. And if someone had a golden chance, Bell had it: a design quickly redesigned for the civilian market, an attractive price thanks to the Young propeller, leveling the high cost of a gas turbine power plant, and here it is, a handsome Bell 206A Jet Ranger - the latest squeak of helicopter fashion!

Talking about the success of the Jet Ranger is like describing the Eiffel Tower in words. Throughout the decade of the 1970s, the world flew on the Jet Ranger, the recognizable silhouette of which flashed in print, cinema and on TV screens. The military took him back with an apology under the Indian name Kiowa. Even the oil crisis did not calm the crazy triumph, but only put an end to unfounded illusions and showed that a car, of course, can rise in price to the level of a helicopter, but a helicopter will never fall in price to the level of a car. In the 1980s, when the Germans and the French were advancing on the Ranger's heels, already trying to unite in the later famous helicopter OPG, Jet Ranger was one of the three main helicopters of the solar system, sharing the podium with its relative Iroquois and the Soviet Mi-8.

Arthur Young in those days already wrote the tenth philosophical treatise, and his invention, the fruit of love of distant young years, a two-bladed main rotor with a common horizontal hinge ensured great success for a small helicopter.

Rangers always come back 3

The years have passed. The Soviet Union, which had been sawed up from the inside, collapsed, and things began to walk along the streets of American cities, from which old hippies only frowned. The markets and sources of cheap resources that opened behind the fallen iron curtain enriched everything and everything so that the world helicopter market became like an omelet from Faberge eggs. European helicopters flown over the ocean quickly proved that it was not fashionable to carry Young's propeller, with this yoke on the scruff of the neck in decent houses they no longer allowed.

The Bell 206 quickly changed into a trendy semi-rigid 4-bladed rotor designed for the combat Kiowa Warrior, and at the same time renamed the Bell 407, as if renouncing the old world and shaking its ashes from the landing gear skids. The unfashionable two-bladed main rotor was given, like a boring cat, into good hands. These were the hands of Frank Robinson, who built helicopters of the same name, which at first were considered frivolous and backward.

But the happiness was short-lived: the global economic bubble deflated. It was clearly revealed that on the ashes of the failed second helicopter boom, a free space was formed, which was quickly filled by Robinson helicopters - first piston R-22 and R-44, then gas turbine R-66. The picture of the past was surprisingly repeated: in the market for light commercial helicopters, the combination of technology consistent with the era and a two-bladed main rotor with a common horizontal joint as a guarantee and a catalyst of consumer demand won again. Where are you, Jet Ranger of the XXI century? I changed my name to Robinson, everyone thought. And they hurried.

Looking closely at the success of its competitors, Bell Helicopter decided to seize the initiative. After all, where is Yang's screw home? Who twice proved to the world that easier is better? But now, unlike the story with the Bell 47, the market was already overheated, like a melting pot, into which it would be rash to jump indiscriminately. In addition, one should not forget that in addition to external difficulties, there are also natural difficulties on the way to creating a helicopter.

They think in vain that it is as easy to design light helicopters as helicopters. Nothing like that, philistine talkers! A helicopter always remains a helicopter, a complex and extremely high-tech machine, always ready to throw a couple of surprises to its creators. Of course, reducing the helicopter, we can reduce the sections of parts and the dimensions of some units, the thickness of the skin, etc. But we cannot reduce a person, we cannot change the physical properties of air — we cannot do much. It turns out that the lighter the helicopter, the more accurate all the calculations should be, and the higher the price of the design error.

Here's an example for you: a huge Mi-26 turned out to be two tons heavier than envisaged in the terms of reference, and nothing - completely succeeded. But try to drag a couple of hundred kilograms of a helicopter that weighs a ton. He will carry himself. And to believe these two hundred kilograms in the design of the helicopter, believe me, is much easier than it seems. But Bell Helicopter ate the dog on the design of light helicopters.


In the first decade of the new century, the Bell Helicopter was torn between several centers of gravity. One of the main ones was the program for finalizing and modernizing the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor. It is worth noting here that creating an aircraft is only half the battle, and sometimes less. The main thing is to bring it later to acceptable characteristics, which in the case of Osprey cost the company incredible efforts. The device turned out to be terribly complex, truly the king of surprises, the combat readiness of the delivered machines and ten years after the official completion of the development and testing program left much to be desired.

The second center of attraction was the program of the world's first commercial convertiplane BA609, created in conjunction with the Italian Agusta. Of course, no one imagined that it would be easy, but what would be so difficult, did not even guess at the Bell Helicopter. And when the crisis struck ... In general, the civilian tiltrotor was given to ambitious Italians, and they themselves embarked on a new tiltrotor, the future Valor. A military order for a tiltrotor is always more reliable.

And in this kingdom of tiltrotors, they decided to strike back at once both "Robinson" and "Eurocopter". The situation for this was successful: the market needed a 5-seater single-engine gas turbine helicopter, a new Jet Ranger. The first presentations of the future helicopter revealed its name: Bell 505 Jet Ranger X - not in the sense of "10", but in the sense of "X". Serial production began in 2015, and the real sales that began confirmed the initial predictions: the Ranger is back. Bell Helicopter has again very accurately hit its market niche.

Jet Ranger X is designed according to a modern methodology, in which all the main parameters are simultaneously set and taken into account, and not only strength, weight and flight performance, but also the life cycle cost (now everyone is doing this, although not everyone has a debit and credit) ... The core of the dynamic system was the main rotor borrowed from the Bell 206L Long Ranger, an elongated 7-seater modification of the 206. This propeller of increased diameter, with wider blades and reinforced hub parts, was by that time so refined and improved that Arthur Young himself would not have desired the best if he were alive. One of the propeller's features is its inherent high inertia, which is very important in the case of a transition to the autorotation mode (non-motorized flight).

The tail rotor and transmission were borrowed from the same Long Ranger, but the engine was chosen differently: Turbomeca Arrius 2R with a maximum continuous power of 459 hp. and takeoff up to 505 hp. (For comparison: the main helicopter of the American police of the 1970-80s Bell 206В-3 Jet Ranger III had an engine of 425 hp) Equipped with a two-channel digital control system FADEC, thanks to this system the engine demonstrates not only efficiency, but also power and reliability: FADEC precisely adjusts the mode, allowing you to avoid power surges and overshoots of temperature, passing literally by a hair's breadth. And at the same time, the smart system saves fuel by preventing the engine from burning it unnecessarily. The FADEC also automatically introduces power correction to maintain rotor speed when needed.

Modern carbon composites have been widely used in the fuselage design, which has gained in mass and added durability, and at the same time farther away from the resonances that could arise in a helicopter with such a long and relatively thin tail boom and low rotor speed. Due to the rearrangement of the fuselage, a unique interior was created in all respects - the most spacious in its class, and also with a flat floor, and modulated. The rear seats and the front passenger seat can be removed very quickly, and the helicopter will instantly become cargo: a flat floor with attachments for mooring half rings allows you to load almost 200 kg with a total payload of 680 kg. The same case when a deer caught during hunting can be loaded into a helicopter, and if there is a cargo net, transported on an external sling - the corresponding additional equipment is provided.

And of course, for the first time installed in a five-seat helicopter, such a powerful avionics complex - GARMIN G1000. It allows you to significantly increase situational prudence, has the functions of recording all parameters, diagnostics, and displays in the pilot's cab display options such as synthetic vision, a moving map, and even a "route in the sky."

How did the market react? The appearance of the "505" knocked two helicopters off course at once: the extremely tired old Bell 206L Long Ranger was withdrawn from production in the Canadian Mirabela, the position of the segment leader was left by the recent favorite Robinson R66, whom the Ranger, who returned to its rightful place, put on both blades with a combination of "price / quality". Under the guise of Mister X, there is still the same character: the combination of reliability with relative simplicity and affordability is the hallmark of Bell Helicopter. Thanks to the improvement of the technical part, the reliability of operation of the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X has increased significantly, moreover, thanks to the unification of a number of units, maintenance has become easier and, therefore, cheaper. Experts do not exclude that the "505" can perform well in business aviation, since it meets the criteria presented in this case.

Serial production of the Jet Ranger X is deployed at Bell Helicopter's new manufacturing facility at Lafayette Airport in Louisiana, USA, and assembly from kits can be quickly set up at customers' minimally equipped manufacturing sites. In Russia "505" "turnkey" costs 1.608.227 USD, while the delivery set includes electromechanical backup devices, a control station for the 2nd pilot, an emergency radio beacon (a requirement of the RF Air Code), a main rotor brake and an entrance barrier filter engine.

So, the Ranger is back in a much changed world. Like it or not, it simply couldn’t turn in another way: the market for light commercial helicopters, twice provoked by the success of Bell helicopters, found the next solution to the next development problem in just such a helicopter with a rotor Arthur Young.