Bell Helicopter’s fly-by-wire 525 Relentless made its first flight on July 1 from the company’s assembly center in Amarillo, Texas.
Unveiled at Heli-Expo in 2012, the 525’s first flight test started with a taxi test and ground maneuvering before lifting off into a hover. Once airborne, the aircraft N525TA also performed various hover manoeuvres and tested its low-speed handling qualities with winds gusting to 20 knots.
The first flight took place about six months later than planned due in part due to supply chain issues.
“The Bell 525 performed extremely well today,” said Bell senior flight test pilot Troy Caudill. “I am excited to be a part of the development of this advanced aircraft and help define the future of vertical lift.”
Bell will manufacture five flight test vehicles to fly a planned 1,500 hours towards attaining type certification, which is expected in early 2017.
Flight test vehicles two and three are scheduled to fly by the end of this year. The first two test helicopters will be used for general performance evaluation and flight envelope expansion with the third used for loads surveys.
Prototypes four and five, expected to join the test fleet in 2016, will be representative of production helicopters and used to certify off-shore and search-and-rescue equipment kits, as well as customer demonstration flights.
Bell has signed more than 60 letters of intent for its 525 and later this year will start building its first Relentless for customer delivery.