My friend Brandon, who was at the show and saw the flashy unveiling of the 505 chastised me for being critical of the new ship. He says it addresses the weaknesses that the 206 has. The cabin is finally big enough for five people, something that really couldn't be said of the 206B unless they were five Japanese people. And you had wedge windows all around.
And I agree.
But, as I've stated, I think moving the transmission back behind the cabin is a HUGE mistake. I think moving the fuel filler to the left side is a huge mistake. I think the tube-steel frame (reminiscent of a Bell 47) is a huge mistake. I think the doors are a huge mistake (which will probably be changed on the production version).
I especially don't like the shape of the fuselage. If you look at the ship in profile, you can see that it has about as much area in front of the mast as it does behind (area, not length). This does not bode well for its stability and handling characteristics. Eurocopter found this out with the Astar, which has a similar profile. You want your helicopter to tend to streamline into the relative wind, like an arrow. But with designs like the 505, the area in front of the mast can have a destabilizing effect on lateral stability. Ask Shawn Coyle! He wrote about it.
Then some nitwit took me to task on Facebook. The guy, who clearly has little understanding of how helicopters work, claimed that Bell probably knows more about designing helicopters than I do and has probably figured out how to solve the thorny weight and balance issues that having the transmission behind the cabin would normally produce. He suggested that Bell probably used newer, lighter composites in the nose/cabin to make it lighter than the composite nose/cabin of the 206. Genius!
What he fails to consider is that what's important is the *change* of c.g. from empty to full. With the 206B it simply was not a problem: You had to work hard to get a 206B out of c.g. On the last 206B I flew, with nobody but me onboard (and full fuel) I could put 100 pounds in the baggage compartment and still be in c.g. The 505 will do better than this because the baggage compartment is right under the mast.
Alternately, with no baggage and minimum fuel, I could put myself and a 240-pound guy up front of my last JetRanger, PLUS three 200 pounders in the back seat and still be in c.g. (Admittedly, three 200-pounders in the back seat of a 206 would be a squeeze - although I've done it.) I can almost guarantee you that you won't be able to do that in a 505.
So is Bell aiming the 505 at the tour market? If they are, I'll be interested to see how it performs.
I did notice that Bell provided very sketchy data on the 505. No empty weight, no max-gross weight...just a bunch of vague marketing numbers that don't mean anything to me.
All of the above cause me, an experienced helicopter pilot, to have concerns. Do I "hate" the new 505? No. I'm just not convinced that it is a "newer, better" 206. Perhaps they shouldn't have used the "JetRanger" name at all, because it clearly will not be a 206...maybe not even a worthy descendant. (Hey, there's a thought! Maybe Lyn could hire me to do a pilot report on the 505 for Vertical Magazine! I mean, I'm not so easily impressed anymore. Nah...on second thought he'd probably be afraid that I'd say something stupid about it and piss Bell off.)
When I explained all these things to Brandon, he understood that when looking at "new" aircraft you have to look a little deeper than just some fancy sheet metal, colorful paint, a flashy intro presentation and nonspecific performance promises. I just want to know why the dummies moved the fuel filler to the "copilot" side!