Bell 212: From Military Roots, A Legacy Helicopter Soldiers On

A Bell 212.
Credit: Helimax Aviation

For operators looking for a used, medium-sized helicopter, the Bell 212 is still popular.

Tracing its ancestry to the single-engine UH-1 “Huey” military workhorse, the medium-size Bell 212 utility helicopter was civil aircraft certified in 1970.  Twenty-three years after it went out of production in 1998, out of a total of 919 delivered, 511 are still in service, according to Bell. 

The Bell 212 family includes four variants—the Pratt & Whitney PT6T-3B Twin-Pac powered Bell 212, 212 IAF, 212HP, and the single-engine 212S that is powered by a Honeywell T53-17 A/B. All use a twin-blade propeller, and have a standard interior configuration of 13 passengers plus two pilots.

According to Mark Clancy, CEO of HelicopterBuyer, a Minneapolis-based global helicopter dealer and broker, the Bell 212 continues in wide use today with utility services accounting for approximately 70% of the fleet. This includes firefighting, cargo transport and land surveying. The remaining 30% are in government service or retired. Currently, he says, about 30 Bell 212s are available for sale, including 10 each in the U.S. and Canada.

“The utility market represents an evolution in utilization, in that the Bell 212 had been primarily engaged in offshore energy support in its early years,” Clancy notes. “A few 212s still serve that market, but (most) have been replaced in that role by the Bell 412EPs and Leonardo AW139s over the past 20 years.”

As the 212 transitioned to the utility sector, says Clancy, operators tended to remove much of the helicopter’s instrument flight rules equipment to save weight to maximize payload, since most utility operations are done under visual flight rules.

Clancy adds that the 212’s price-point has dropped significantly over the past decade. “Currently, the helicopter is selling in the mid-to-high $1 million to low $2 million range, depending on component value and condition,” he reports.

Despite its age, the Bell 212 continues to offer reasonable direct maintenance costs (DMC), compared to comparable Bell medium helicopters. For example, Clancy says that the helicopter’s total DMC is approximately $572 per-hour versus $600/hour for the Bell 205A-1++ and 212S, and $650 DMC for an earlier 412/SP/HP model which is based on the 212 airframe, except with a smaller diameter four-bladed rotor system.

Clancy adds that of the Bell 212’s total DMC, the helicopter’s PT6T-3B Twin-Pac accounts for $233 per-hour including the combining gearbox. In comparison, he notes that the engine DMC for the Bell 205A-1++, powered by a single Honeywell T5317A/B, is slightly higher at $240 per hour. He attributes this to “substantially increased” pricing from Honeywell for new engine parts and fuel control overhaul pricing in recent years, while Pratt & Whitney has found ways to reduce PT6T-3B engine DMC for operators.

Direct maintenance cost levels, combined with a reputation for reliability and versatile performance, have made the 212 the long-term player in the medium helicopter space that it occupies today, current and former operators attest. As a case in point, Fresno, California-based Roger’s Helicopters operates seven Bell 212s, with an average fleet age of 35 years. The helicopters are used mainly for firefighting, construction and disaster relief missions, explains company Vice President Robin Rogers.

For Rogers, the Bell 212 stands out because of its “excellent performance” under hot day/high altitude conditions. “We have not seen a comparable new helicopter that does as well under high and hot conditions, at the price point of a Bell 212,” he says. HelicopterBuyer’s Mark Clancy verifies that the Bell 205A-1++ and the Bell 212S are the nearest competitors to the Bell 212/HP for high and hot operations, during the summer and at elevations above 5,000 ft. above sea level.  Both are out of production.

Rogers states that OEM support from both Bell and Pratt & Whitney continues to be “very good” with no supply chain or parts availability issues. “Also, a number of vendors still support the helicopter and more new items for upgrades are coming available. For example, I know of one vendor who is developing a lighter weight tail boom,” he says.

With more than 20 years of experience flying the Bell 212 by the time he sold his Intermountain Helicopter operation last year, Rick Livingston reports that during the company’s first years of ownership, commencing in 1999, OEM support was good, but as the years progressed, it tended to wane to some extent. Between 1999-2020, Intermountain flew a 1972 and 1975 vintage 212.

“Bell does provide support for the 212, but not as enthusiastically as they once did—especially over the past five years,” says Livingston. “It wasn’t unusual for Bell to tell us that we had to wait up to one year for the parts, specific to the Bell 212, we needed. They seemed to have a limited amount of stock (parts) on hand.”

Current Intermountain Helicopter owner Travis Harold agrees that on some parts, there may be long lead times, due to demand and the fact it is an older aircraft. He cites rotor blades. “If you order a rotor blade for the 212 from Bell in the morning, it’s not likely it will be shipped out that afternoon,” he says.

Steve Randalls, director of maintenance for Helimax Aviation in McClellan, California, reported that the company operated a Bell 212 from 2013-19, primarily for firefighting. During that period, he says, only seven airworthiness directives (ADs) were issued. “They included one for the tail rotor blades, because there was some concern about delamination and cracking; and one for the main rotor blades’ grip plate doublers to check for voids, corrosion, and cracking,” he explains.  According to Bell, a total of 55 ADs have been issued by the FAA on the Bell 212 to date.

“It’s a very robust airframe, as far as helicopters go, especially in the firefighting environment,” says Randalls. “We had a dispatch reliability rate of between 97-99%.”

Bell 212 Missions

More than 70% of active Bell 212 aircraft are flying in utility missions. This includes civilian and military multi-role, firefighting utility, general utility, cargo transport, land surveying, and news media missions.

Utility (Civil Multi-Role)


Military Multi-Role (Utility Transport)


Off-Shore / Oil & Gas Support


Police Air Support / Law Enforcement / Border Pat


Fire Fighting (Utility Role)


Business - Air Taxi/Air Charter


Search & Rescue / Coast Guard




Heavy-Lift Ops / Under Slung Loads / Logging




Business - Private Company Use


Medevac / Air Ambulance / EMS / Airborne Hospital


ASW / MPA / Surveillance / Recce / Patrol


VIP / Head of State / Government operated


Surveying / Mapping & Power/Pipeline Inspection


Special Role / Operations / Mission


News Media / Camera Equipped


Experimental / R&D / Prototype / Mfr-Design Bureau


Unknown Application




(Source – Bell)