The Bell Model 407 is a four-bladed main rotor version of the successful Bell Model 206 (Model 206L-4) and saw its first-flight recorded on June 29th, 1995. Service introduction occurred in 1996 and the type continues in service today (2017) across various environments, both military and civilian. Military operators of the Model 407 include El Salvador (Air Force), Iraq (Air Force), Jamaica (Army) and the United Arab Emirates (Air Force). Civilian, governmental and special industry market operators also exist. First deliveries of the Model 407 were in February 1996 and the design went on to spawn the Bell Model 427 (since replaced by the Model 429) and Northrop Grumman MQ-8C "Fire Scout" UAV (under development, detailed elsewhere on this site).
Work on a new light utility helicopter by Bell commenced in the early 1990s as the company sought a successor to its long-running, and well-liked, Model 206 series (originally developed to a U.S. Army specification). With a Model 206 modified to serve as the technology demonstrator, the Model 407 was born and two prototypes were used in the trials process which incorporated the composite four-bladed main rotor assembly featured on the OH-58D "Kiowa" military helicopter. The Allison 250-C47 was selected to power the new design.
Serial production began in 1995 and around 1,100 units have been built to date (2017) at a cost of about $2.5 million per unit.
The Bell Model 407 requires a single pilot for basic operation. A typical seating arrangement allows for seven total persons to be carried aloft. The aircraft can also carry external underslung loads up to 2,645lb. Dimensions include a length of 41.7 feet, a rotor diameter of 35 feet and a height of 11.7 feet. Empty weight is 2,670lb with an MTOW of 6,000lb listed.
Power is from a single Allison 250-C47B turboshaft engine developing 813 horsepower while driving a four-bladed main rotor assembly overhead and a two-bladed tail rotor assembly aft. Performance includes a maximum speed of 140 knots, a cruise speed of 133 knots and a range out to 324 nautical miles. Its service ceiling reaches 18,700 feet.
Externally, the Model 407 carries the smooth, clean lines of the Model 206 before it. The cockpit sports large windows for excellent vision by the pilot(s). The engine sits over the passenger cabin section which features side-mounted hinged access doors. The tail unit (of composite construction) is elevated to help the tail rotor clear the ground. Small vertical fins are set on short horizontal planes at the tail section's midway point. At the extreme end of the tail is a vertical dorsal and ventral fin. The tail rotor is mounted to face the portside of the aircraft. The Model 407 makes use of a simple four-point landing skid arrangement.
Variants in Model 407 line include the Model 417, the Model 407 LOH, the Eagle Model 407 HP, the Model 407AH, the Model 407GX, the Model 407GT and the Model 407GXP. The Model 417 was the civilian version of the planned ARH-70 (detailed below) while the Model 407 LOH ("Light Observation Helicopter") was a militarized reconnaissance version. The Eagle 407 HP was developed for Eagle Copter of Canada and fitted the Honeywell HTS900 series engine of 1,021 horsepower output. The Model 407AH became a specialized armed model for government-level forces. The Model 407GX was given an all-digital cockpit featuring a new avionics set. The Model 407GT was the armed variant of the GX. The Model 407 GXP became an improved-performance version of the Model 407GX with an improved control scheme.
The ARH-70 "Arapahoe", a new lightweight, armed military helicopter developed for the United States Army during the 2000s, was based in the Model 407. However, the project was later cancelled in October of 2008. This helicopter is detailed elsewhere on this site.
The Bell Model 407 also makes up the Northrop Grumman MQ-8C "Fire Scout" rotary-wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). This aircraft is being tested by the United States Navy for use as an unmanned cargo resupply system for at-sea vessels. This helicopter is also detailed elsewhere on this site.