How Will Bell 412 Do Against Competition?

Credit: Bell

Ask the Editors: The Aviation Week Network invites our readers to submit questions to our editors and analysts. We’ll answer them, and if we can’t we’ll reach out to our wide network of experts for advice. 

The Bell 412 series is a formidable and venerable helicopter, but new-technology machines are challenging its very existence. How do you think Bell will respond to these challenges with their 412? And will EPX be a real successor of the 412 EPs and EPIs?

Aviation Week London Bureau Chief Tony Osborne responds: 

The Bell 412EPX is little more than an incremental upgrade of the Bell 412 family, a commercial spin-off of the UH-X platform that was selected by the Japan Self-Defense Forces as a replacement for the UH-1H and codeveloped with Fuji (now Subaru). The EPX is a successor to the EP and EPI models, but it will not change Bell’s position in the medium helicopter marketplace—it gave up that leadership spot in 2005 when it withdrew from a partnership with Italy’s Agusta on the AB139, now the AW139.

The AW139 is arguably the best selling medium commercial helicopter of the last 10-15 years, exceeding its 1,000th delivery last year. It has changed the medium helicopter market entirely. Arguably, Bell needs to make either a significant investment in the Model 412 or come up with a new medium design to take on the AW139, but it is difficult to see either making any serious dent in the AW139’s market lead. 

I suspect Bell will not develop the Model 412 anymore, and probably leave it to Subaru to build and complete the UH-X program, giving the company more breathing room to work on its light helicopters, niche technology programs and pursue its military interests such as the U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft and Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.