It has been confirmed by Bell Helicopter that the first 525 Relentless test aircraft has crashed at Chamber’s Creek, 120km south east of Fort Worth, Texas and south of Bell Helicopter’s Xworx facility in Arlington, killing both pilots. As yet the cause of the accident is unknown, with Bell releasing the following statement: “This is a devastating day for Bell Helicopter. We are deeply saddened by the loss of our teammates and have reached out to their families to offer our support. At this time we ask for your understanding as we work through all of the details. We will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.”
The aircraft in question was one of three prototypes involved in the flight test campaign, while two more are expected to join the program in Q3 this year.
The 525 Relentless program is of particular significance. Bell Helicopters revealed this new “super medium” class of helicopter at the Heli-Expo 2012 and is aiming for it to become the first commercial fly-by-wire civil certified part 29 helicopter. The 20,000-pound gross weight class helicopter has a standard seating configuration for 16 passengers and two pilots, with a typical cruise speed of 155 knots for distances of over 500 nautical miles.
By March this year the test program had completed 130 flight test hours, setting it 40% ahead of schedule in test points to be accomplished for its targeted certification towards the end of 2017. It is not known what effect this setback will have on the certification until the cause of the accident is known.
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