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The Bell 206 is a family of two-bladed, single- or twin-engine helicopter s, manufactured by Bell Helicopter at its Mirabel, Quebec plant. Originally developed as the Bell YOH-4 for the United States Army 's Light Observation Helicopter program, the 206 failed to be selected. Bell redesigned the airframe and successfully marketed the aircraft commercially as the five-place ''Bell 206A JetRanger''. The new design was eventually selected by the Army as the OH-58 Kiowa . Bell also developed a seven-place ''LongRanger'', which was later offered with a twin-engine option as the ''TwinRanger'', while Tridair Helicopters offers a similar conversion of the LongRanger called the ''Gemini ST''. The ICAO -assigned model designation ''B06'' is used on flight plan s for the JetRanger and LongRanger, and the designation ''B06T'' is used for the twin-engine TwinRangers.
On 14 October 1960, the United States Navy solicited response from 25 aircraft manufacturers to a request for proposals (RFP) on behalf of the Army for the Light Observation Helicopter (LOH). Bell entered the competition along with 12 other manufacturers, including Hiller Aircraft and Hughes Tool Co., Aircraft Division . Bell submitted the ''D-250'' design, which would be designated as the ''YHO-4 ''. On 19 May 1961, Bell and Hiller were announced as winners of the design competition.
Bell developed the D-250 design into the ''Bell 206'' aircraft, redesignated as ''YOH-4A'' in 1962, and produced five prototype aircraft for the Army's test and evaluation phase. The first prototype flew on 8 December 1962. The YOH-4A also became known as the ''Ugly Duckling'' in comparison to the other contending aircraft. Following a flyoff of the Bell, Hughes and Fairchild-Hiller prototypes, the Hughes OH-6 was selected in May 1965.
When the YOH-4A was eliminated by the Army, Bell went about solving the problem of marketing the aircraft. In addition to the image problem, the helicopter lacked cargo space and only provided cramped quarters for the planned three passengers in the back. The solution was a fuselage redesigned to be more sleek and aesthetic, adding 16 cubic feet (0.45 m3) of cargo space in the process. The redesigned aircraft was designated as the ''Bell 206A'', and Bell President Edwin J. Ducayet named it the ''JetRanger'' denoting an evolution from the popular Model 47J ''Ranger'' .
The ''206L LongRanger'' is a stretched variant with seating for seven (the LongRanger, stretched a total of , adds two rear-facing seats in between the front and rear seats). Since their first delivery in 1975, Bell has produced more than 1,700 Ls across all variant types. In 1981 a military version was released, the ''206L "TexasRanger"''. The original 206L utilized a Allison 250 -C20B engine, and a series of model upgrades replaced this engine with more powerful versions; the 206L-1 used a 250-C28 and the 206L-3 and 206L-4 used the 250-C30P with 490 shaft horsepower.
In 2007, Bell announced an upgrade program for the 206L-1 and 206L-3 which is designed to modify the aircraft to the 206L-4 configuration; modified aircraft are designated 206L-1+ and 206L-3+. Modifications include strengthened airframe structural components (including a new tailboom), improved transmission, upgraded engine for the L-1, all of which result in a max gross weight increase of 300 pounds and increased performance.
Gemini ST and TwinRanger
The ''TwinRanger'' name dates back to the mid-1980s when Bell first developed the ''Bell 400 TwinRanger '', but it never entered production.
In 1989, Tridair Helicopters began developing a twin engine conversion of the LongRanger, the ''Gemini ST''. The prototype's first flight was on 16 January 1991, while full FAA certification was awarded in November. Certification covers the conversion of LongRanger 206L-1s, L-3s and L-4s to Gemini ST configuration. In mid-1994 the Gemini ST was certificated as the first Single/Twin aircraft, allowing it to operate either as a single or twin engine aircraft throughout all phases of flight.
The ''Bell 206LT TwinRanger'' was a new build production model equivalent to Tridair's Gemini ST, and was based on the 206L-4. Only thirteen 206LTs were built, the first being delivered in January 1994, and the last in 1997. The TwinRanger was replaced in Bell's line-up by the mostly-new ''Bell 427 ''.
The first Bell 206A flew on 10 January 1966, and the aircraft was revealed later that month at the Helicopter Association of America (HAA) convention. On 20 October 1966, the JetRanger received full certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Delivery of the JetRanger to customers began on 13 January 1967, with the first aircraft being purchased by Harry Holly, president of the Hollymatic Company and previous owner of a Bell Ranger.
In 1968, the United States Navy selected the 206A as its primary trainer, the ''TH-57 Sea Ranger''. The Army also eventually selected the 206A for a light observation helicopter as the ''OH-58 Kiowa ''.
The basic shape and design of the JetRanger remained unchanged since 1967, but Bell introduced the ''206B JetRanger II'' in 1971. In 1977, the ''206B-3 JetRanger III'' was introduced with its modified tail rotor and more powerful engine. The JetRanger is popular with news media for traffic and news reporting. The LongRanger is commonly used as an air ambulance and as a corporate transport.
On 1 September 1982, pilots H. Ross Perot, Jr. and Jay Coburn took off from Dallas, Texas in the "Spirit of Texas ", a Bell 206L-2 (N3911Z). 29 days and 3 hours later, they returned on 30 September 1982, completing the first around the world helicopter flight. In 1983, Australian Businessman Dick Smith became the first helicopter pilot to complete a solo trip around the world in 260 flight hours. During the trip, he landed his 206B-3 (S/N 3653; VH-DIK) on prepositioned container ships to refuel between Japan and the Aleutian Islands.
In 1993, the Army chose the Bell 206B-3 as the winner of the National Training Helicopter competition, to serve as the Army's primary training helicopter, the ''TH-67 Creek''.
On 22 July 1994, Ron Bower landed his 206B-3 (N206AJ) at Hurst, Texas , completing a new world record, around the world flight. Bower had departed on 24 June 1994 and returned 24 days, 4 hours, 36 minutes and 24 seconds later, averaging 35.62 knots (40.99 mph, 65.97 km/h). Bower had added a 91-gallon auxiliary fuel tank, which doubled the JetRanger III's range.
On 24 January 2008, Bell Helicopter Textron announced plans to terminate production of the Bell 206B-3 model after current order commitments are fulfilled in 2010.
*Bell 206 - Five (5) YOH-4A prototypes, for flight evaluation in the Army's LOH program (1963).
*Bell 206A - Initial production version, powered by an Allison 250-C18 turboshaft engine. FAA-certified in 1966. Selected as the OH-58A Kiowa in 1968.
**Agusta-Bell 206A - License-built in Italy
*Bell 206A-1 - OH-58A aircraft that are reverse-modified for FAA civil certification.
*Agusta-Bell 206A-1 - License-built in Italy
*Bell 206B - Upgraded Allison 250-C20 engine.
**Agusta-Bell 206B - License-built in Italy
*Bell 206B-2 - Bell 206B models upgraded with Bell 206B-3 improvements.
*Bell 206B-3 - Upgraded Allison 250-C20J engine and added to tail rotor diameter for yaw control.
*Bell 206L LongRanger - Stretched, seven seat configuration, powered by an Allison 250-C20B turboshaft engine.
**Agusta-Bell 206L LongRanger - License-built in Italy
*Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II - Higher-powered version, powered by an Allison 250-C28 turboshaft engine.
**Agusta-Bell 206B-1 - License-built in Italy.
*Bell 206L-1+ LongRanger - Bell modifications, including 250-C30P engine, to upgrade aircraft to 206L-4 configuration.
*Bell 206L-3 LongRanger III - Powered by an Allison 250-C30P turboshaft engine.
**Agusta-Bell 206B-3 - License-built in Italy.
*Bell 206L-3+ LongRanger - Bell modifications to upgrade aircraft to 206L-4 configuration.
*Bell 206L-4 LongRanger IV - Improved version, 250-C30P engine and transmission upgrade.
*Bell 206LT TwinRanger - Twin-engined conversions and new-builds of the 206L; replaced by the Bell 427 .
*Bell 407 - based on the 206L with four-bladed rotor system
*Bell 417 - upgraded 407 with bigger engine; project cancelled.
Export version for the Chilean Navy .;OH-58 Kiowa :Light observation helicopter that replaced the OH-6A Cayuse .
40 commercial Bell 206A aircraft purchased as the primary U.S. Navy helicopter trainer in January 1968, designated "Sea Ranger".[http://www.history.navy.mil/planes/th-57.pdf]
proposed export military version, only a demonstrator was built in 1981.
45 commercial Bell 206B-3 helicopters purchased in 1989 as replacements for the TH-57A for primary training under visual flight rules.
71 commercial Bell 206B-3 helicopters purchased beginning prior to 1985 with cockpits configured for advanced training under instrument flight rules.
Planned upgrade program to convert TH-57B and TH-57C to a single standard digital cockpit.[http://www.vtol.org/news/issues107.html#us]
137 commercial Bell 206B-3 purchased in 1993 as the primary helicopter trainer for the U.S. Army. 35 in VFR configuration and 102 in IFR configuration.[http://avia.russian.ee/helicopters_eng/bell_206.php]