The Model 204B and its developments.
The high performance of the Bell UH-1, combined with its reliable and fuel efficient engine soon attracted civil operator interest. Bell quickly realised the scope of this new market and developed the basic militar y utility helicopter in to one more suited to civil needs.
The primary requirements of both militar y and civil helicopters customers are mission performance and reliability. The latter are also looking for passenger comfort and most importantly cost effectiveness. In the Huey, Bell had produced a machine which amply met both markets’ needs, a rotary winged DC-3 equivalent if you will. The success of the Huey in military service, when combined with its high reliability, fuel efficiency and low maintenance and operating costs began attracting enquiries from civil customers as diverse as oil companies and law enforcement agencies as early as 1961. This prompted the development of a civil version of the UH-1B, known by its company model number, the Bell 204B. This differed from the military version in a number of important details, not least of which was the adoption of the longer 48ft (14.63m) span rotor and longer tail boom of the UH-1D, giving the 204B a maximum take off weight of 8500lb (3850kg). The door locks and catches were strengthened on the cabin doors, which were now jettisonable to act as emergency exits for the eight passengers that could be accommodated in the standard cabin. A range of custom cabin interiors with different seating layouts were also available and passenger steps were fitted beneath each of the cabin doors to ease entry and exit. The cockpit remained a full dual control side by side two seat design, but was fitted with civil avionics, such as radios and navigation systems. The fire detection and extinguishing system was changed for a civil version and the external lights were improved to civil standards. Lastly, a 35cu ft (0.99cu m) baggage compartment that could accommodate 400lb (182kg) was added to the tail boom. The prototype Bell 204B, constructor’s number 1501, first flew on March 8, 1962, powered by the 1100hp Lycoming T53-L-9A which was changed to the -11 model of the engine on later production airframes. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) granted type approval and certification on April 4, 1963, with 74 being built by Bell for a vast range of civil operators, as well as an additional 375 by Agusta in Italy and Fuji in Japan over the course of the next decade. The two licence builders also supplied Bell 204Bs with a range of engines to military customers, as will be described later in this issue. The advent of the UH-1D long bodied version of the military Huey in August 1961 also spawned a civil version, again known by the company model number, the Bell 205A. This first flew on March 22, 1967, powered by the 1100hp T53-L-11 engine and its cabin, stretched by 3ft 5in (1.04m), could now accommodate up to 15 passenger seats, operating at the same maximum weight as the Model 204B. After the first 39 205As had been built based on the UH-1D, the UH-1H with the 1400hp T53-L-13A version of the Lycoming turboshaft became the basis of the Bell 205A1, with the maximum weight increased by an additional 1000lb (453.6kg). Like the 204, the 205 also had a baggage compartment in the tail boom, giving the A-1 model a total internal
load capacity of 248cu ft (7cu m) in this and the enlarged cabin, the increased engine power allowing a 5000lb (2268kg) underslung load to be carried as an alternative. With the cabin fitted to operate as an air ambulance, the 205 could carry up to six stretchers and two medical staff in addition to the two pilots. These capabilities made the 205 extremely adaptable as well as cost effective and attracted an even greater market than the earlier 204. After FAA certification was granted on October 25, 1968, 332 Model 205A-1s were built at Fort Worth between 1968 and 1980. Like the Model 204B, these were supplied to both military and civil customers as well as being produced under licence in Italy, Japan and Taiwan. There was one additional version of the helicopter produced by Bell, the Model 205A-1A, identical to the 205A-1, but with the inclusion of fuselage strengthening for weapons mounts and a military avionics suite. Ten of these, constructor’s numbers 30068 to 30077, were produced specifically for the Israeli Defence Force Air Force for use as both troop transports and gunships, several later being sold to the Brazilian Air Force. The Model 205 was developed still further during the late 1980s to produce the Bell 205B, fitted with the Lycoming T53-L-17A of 1500hp and achieving FAA certification on December 6, 1989. A number of features from the twin engined Bell Model 212 were used, including the more tapered nose of the later model, the improved drive shaft and main and tail rotor blades. These changes improved the maximum weight performance to 10,500lb (4763kg) but in the end only five were built, four of these upgraded from 205A-1s, as at the time the market was filled with ex-military Hueys of practically every version built in the wake of the downsizing of the US military. A kit was offered to existing customers that allowed the engine and rotors of the Model 205B to be fitted to 205A-1s as an upgrade, after which the helicopters were known as the Model 205A+. Both the civil and military versions of the Huey proved extremely reliable, giving long service in roles as diverse as police operations and fighting forest fires. Their continuing popularity meant that the concept of the Bell 205B was resurrected in the early 2000s with the Model 210. This was aimed at providing the US Army with a solution to its Light Utility Helicopter requirements and replacing the ageing fleets of Hueys around the world with an extremely cost effective alternative to an all new type of helicopter. The Model 210 programme took existing stocks of UH-1H fuselages, refurbishing them to as new condition and rewiring them completely. Like the 205B, these fuselages were then modified with the more tapered nose of the Bell 212, along with that model’s main and tail rotor blades. In addition, the 212’s main rotor hub, main and tail rotor support structures, transmission, control systems and entire tail boom were added to the refurbished fuselage. Powering the 210 was the 1800hp T-53517B version of the original engine, now produced by Honeywell which had acquired the turbine engine division of Lycoming from Allied Signal in 1999. The prototype Bell 210 made its first flight on December 18, 2004, achieving its FAA certification in July the following year. Like the original Model 205B, this was only to be built in small numbers, as the market for the aircraft was still glutted with ex-military Hueys, as well as with newer and more fuel efficient types of helicopters. Helicopter technology was developing and the advances were beginning to leave the original Huey single engined concept behind, but this was to be far from the end for the design.
Proof of the longevity and reliability of Bell’s Huey. A pristine example of an early Bell 204B, OE-XBT, (c/n 2053) of Heli Austria, seen in the Austrian mountains on February 25, 2009.
A Bell 204B, C-GJLV, of Delta Helicopters of Alberta Canada, being fitted with an underslung load of fuel drums. A Bell 205A-1 of Heliquest seen with an underslung load in New Mexico in June 2004. Note the pilot is using the extended cockpit door window for a clear view of the load and the area beneath the aircraft, a feature fitted to many civil Hueys. Bell 205A-1s were also supplied as a military utility helicopter to a wide variety of customers such as the Pakistan Air Force.
One of the Bell 205A-1s that was upgraded to become a Bell 205B, N205VC, c/n 30066. Originally built in 1969, the aircraft was acquired by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department in December 1998.
The cockpit of the vastly upgraded Bell Model 210.