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Smooth operator

WHEN it comes to helicopters, the Bell 429 is designed to give passengers and pilot the best experience. Recently, Bell flew in its brand new Bell 429 to the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah airport in Subang to show what the helicopter to can do in terms of flying and technology.


THE MODEL

Targeted at the commercial and government/public market, its flexible cabin layout can either be turned into a luxurious 4-seater for business clients or a six-seater. Compared with other helicopters in the Bell stable, the 429 is spacious, with a wide, flat floor. This means more comfort and extra legroom for business passengers or additional space for an emergency medical service.

For the test flight, Bell brought in the luxury business configuration that features four leather seats on the passenger side.

The 5.7-cubic-metre model features wide and comfortable VIP seats with armrests and a console for drinks between them.

According to Bell Helicopter business development manager Leigh-Ann Subuh, the Bell 429 is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada turbine engines, which are said to provide very stable hovering capability and speed.

The helicopter can fly for a distance of 763km or 4.4 hours on a single tank at about 277km/h cruising speed, and reach up to 20,000 feet (about 6,096m) ceiling. It can engage in takeoff and landing operations in excess of 3,962 metres.


HIGH TECH FEATURES

Technology is one of the core strengths of the Bell 429. Bell Helicopter flight test pilot Brent Berwick says the helicopter is one of the easiest to fly.

The pilot workload is minimised through a fully-integrated glass cockpit deck, featuring modern, large format flat panel displays, and an advanced automatic flight control system.

The glass cockpit features the Bell BasiX-Pro Avionics system, which is specifically designed to meet the requirements of twin engine helicopters. There are also the three-axis autopilot feature and Garmin GTN 750/650 systems to ensure accurate navigation.


THE RIDE

One could feel its smoothness as it taxied above the ground next to the airport runway. Despite flying just a few metres above the ground before it was given clearance to go higher, stability was evident.

The helicopter was able to keep vibration to a very low level - it’s almost like flying in a jet plane - and the noise level in the cabin was noticeably low.

The field-of-view from the cabin windows was also superb with the helicopter having large windows. It added to the exceptional flight experience.

Berwick flew the helicopter for about 30 minutes covering the whole of Klang Valley, including the Kuala Lumpur city centre.

Explaining how the helicopter worked as well as its features, he demonstrated the Bell 429’s autopilot capability. Trainee pilots, he added, would benefit from a stint on the Bell 429.

Subuh (left) and Berwick in front of the Bell 429. Pix by Rosela Ismail
The helicopter’s fully-integrated glass cockpit deck.
The Bell 429 is spacious, with a wide, flat floor.
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