It is no secret that the Bell 407 and Bell medium lift helicopters, such as the 212, have served and continue to serve as reliable workhorses, not only in North America, but all over the world. Last month, the ANJ team paid a visit to Eagle Copters in Alberta, to find out how these helicopters are being given new life and significantly improved performance.
When Eagle was founded in 1975, it was a small family business with a solitary Aerospatiale Alouette II in its lease fleet. Few could have predicted that it would one day become a worldwide helicopter fleet management company, operating on three continents, with a network of subsidiaries, affiliates and joint venture partnerships around the world. As Eagle and its lease fleet expanded, so did the requirement to maintain its own helicopters. Ultimately, the company grew to become a complete maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) organization, offering a wide variety of services and products. Today, Eagle’s experience and expertise in Bell medium lift helicopters, for example, is unmatched in the world. In addition to being a one stop solution for worldwide fleet management, leasing and MRO services, the company also specializes in airframe upgrades.
In recent years, Eagle has gained the ability to significantly improve the performance of Bell 212s and 407s. The company was awarded supplemental type certificates to replace these helicopters’ original engines with more efficient Honeywell engines in 2007 and 2014 respectively. Several helicopters have undergone the conversion and proven the value of the program, resulting in return customers and increasing interest from helicopter operators.
To find out more about the conversion program, we went to Eagle’s 115 000 ft² facility at Calgary International Airport, where the company was originally established more than four decades ago.
The Eagle Single
At first glance, replacing two engines of a medium lift helicopter with a single engine may seem somewhat counterintuitive, but it quickly makes sense if one considers the advantages. Converting a Bell 212 to an ‘Eagle Single’ means replacing two heavy engines with one modern, efficient, powerful, reliable Honeywell engine, weighing only 540 lbs (245 kg). The result is a medium helicopter with all the inherent benefits of operating a Bell 212, such as dual hydraulics, common 212 part numbers and broad aftermarket support, in addition to new benefits, such as improved performance, increased payload capacity, lower operating costs and ease of maintenance. So far, thirteen Bell 212s have been converted to Eagle Singles, with operators eager to convert the remainder of their fleets.
The Eagle Single is not the only initiative the company has taken from infancy to mature program development. At the time of writing, eleven Bell 407s had been converted to Eagle 407HPs, with three in progress and two more helicopters contracted for conversion during the coming months. Also, Eagle had just been approached by an operator, hoping to convert an entire fleet of 29 Bell 407s. This was one of a number of operators that has shown interest in full fleet conversions. Converting a Bell 407 to an Eagle 407HP involves replacing its original engine with a Honeywell HTS900, resulting in a faster, more powerful and more efficient helicopter, with excellent high ambient temperature and high altitude performance. In fact, the conversion results in a 22 percent improvement in power while burning 17 percent less fuel, increasing payload capability by almost 20 percent at
10 000 ft altitude.
“The HTS900 is the next generation engine from Honeywell,” said Eagle Regional Sales Manager Tyler Williams. “Honeywell has taken many factors into account to make it an easier engine to work on, resulting in lower maintenance costs and increased reliability. You are going to spend more time flying and less time in a hangar conducting maintenance.”
So far, 407HPs have accumulated a total of almost 4 000 trouble-free flight hours. Eagle’s conversions are certified in Canada, the USA, Australia, Chile, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Mexico, while the company is currently seeking validation in China and with the European Aviation Safety Agency. At the time of writing, Eagle had just completed the first HP conversion in Australia and was about to complete the first conversion in Chile.
Naturally, the success of the Eagle Single and 407HP conversions is mostly due to Eagle’s experience and expertise with Bell products, but the company’s excellent relationship with Bell Helicopter has also proven to be instrumental in the program.
In addition to airframe upgrades, MRO services and, of course, global leasing and fleet management support, Eagle offers an array of other services. These include refurbishing and repurposing helicopter configurations, flight deck modernization, manufacturing and installing components, avionics and electrical upgrades, and helicopter sales, to mention a few.
During our visit to Eagle, it was fascinating to see its modern and extensive facilities, but it will be even more exciting to see the increasing numbers of converted Bell 212s and 407s entering the Canadian helicopter workforce.