Eagle Copter 407HP
Eagle Copter 407HP

Eagle Copter 407HP

When you put a more powerful engine in any aircraft, you can typically go faster. Often, you can also climb higher and more rapidly, especially on hot days, and carry more payload.

That’s the rationale behind the Eagle Copter 407HP modification, which exchanges the stock Rolls-Royce turbine in the Bell 407 single-engine helicopter for the mightier Honeywell HTS900 powerplant.

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Canada’s Hélite Aviation will use the helicopter for VIP transport.

The stock 407 takes the basic fuselage of a stretched Bell JetRanger (called the 206L4), widens it, and mates it to an all-composite, four-bladed main rotor system similar to the one Bell developed for the Army's OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout/attack helicopter. The rotor disc diameter is 35 feet. The 407 will fit into a standard small aircraft hangar—barely. The 407 also gets a carbon fiber tailboom that is lightweight and robust. In addition, it has two more rotor blades than the 206L4, which allows it to climb higher, haul more, and provide a smoother ride. The extra blades also add to maintenance requirements and direct operating costs.

The passenger windows are more than one-third larger than those on the standard five-seat 206. The extra eight inches of cabin width in the 407 yield 54.8 inches across. Compared with the 206, that makes a big difference, providing enough room to enable the helicopter to be used for medevac operations and to accommodate larger pilots and passengers.

Since its introduction in 1996, Bell has sold more than 1,600 Model 407s in various iterations as well as providing the airframe platform for the U.S. Navy’s unmanned MQ-8C Fire Scout and common components with the Army’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout/attack helicopter. It's a vehicle with amazing versatility that can be used for virtually any mission: ambulance, cargo, law enforcement, firefighting, military scout and gunship, offshore oil support, utility and, of course, executive transport. Fleet operators such as air ambulance provider Air Methods and offshore helicopter services company PHI fly the 407—hard.

Eagle Copter 407HP cockpit
Eagle Copter 407HP cockpit

You can obtain a nice used one for less than $1.2 million (new and well equipped, they still cost less than $3.5 million), and for that you get a lot: a service ceiling of 17,900 feet (fully loaded) and the ability to carry the pilot and up to six passengers (five in executive configuration) 281 nautical miles.

The 407 is a good helicopter, but it does have shortcomings—namely, it loses a lot of its payload capacity at high altitudes on hot days as the stock 813-shaft-horsepower engine (takeoff power) struggles to perform under such conditions. Indeed, power on a stock 407 began to fall off above altitudes of 4,000 feet. (Performance improved somewhat with the debut of the slightly more powerful (863 shp) stock GXP model, which Bell started to deliver in 2015.)

Both Bell and the U.S. Army attempted to address this some 20 years ago with the now-canceled Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) program by fitting the more robust Honeywell HTS900 turboshaft (1021 shaft horsepower), new rotor blades, and a beefier tail into a follow-on aircraft to the OH-58D. However, when program costs soared to 70 percent above initial estimates, to almost $14.5 million per helicopter, the program was canceled.

In 2006, Bell unveiled a civilian, unarmed version of the ARH called the 417. But after the Army canceled the ARH, the airframer stopped development of that model, and it formally canceled the program in 2007. Yet, customer interest was clearly there—Bell bagged 50 customer letters of intent when the 417 was unveiled at the 2006 Heli-Expo trade show and eventually grew the deposit book to 136.

Enter Eagle. The helicopter service and management company is based in the Canadian Rockies, where higher terrain comes into play on a daily basis, and it saw a market for a helicopter with the 417’s capabilities. Working with Honeywell, it launched the Eagle 407HP re-engine program in 2010 and made its first customer delivery in 2015. The $925,000 conversion takes six to eight weeks and can be done in Canada, Australia, or Chile. Reselling your old engine brings the net average cost of the conversion down to around $725,000, says Eagle’s David Whiting.

According to Eagle, the 407HP delivers 17 percent better fuel burn, a 19 percent increase in payload capacity at altitudes of 10,000 feet (40 percent at 12,000 feet), and an overall 21 percent power improvement in high/hot conditions. In practical terms, that means a boost in payload capacity of 400 to 700 pounds, depending on outside temperature and altitude, according to pilots who fly the 407HP.

Eagle Copter 407HP
Eagle Copter 407HP

Compared with a stock 407, the 407HP runs hotter, burns cleaner, and is quieter, says Greg Poirier, who flies a 407HP for the AirLife Denver air ambulance service. “It’s a substantial increase in performance at the temperatures and altitudes we operate out of,” he notes.

AirLife’s mechanic, Dan Metz, says the 407HP’s Honeywell engine requires less maintenance than a comparable stock engine. “Eagle did a good install. Everything is made well to fit,” he adds.

To date, Eagle has delivered 26 of the 407HPs, and it is finishing work on another four. About a third are going to the executive market. Expect that number to grow as word spreads of this modification’s performance and value. With the 407HP you can upgrade a used 407 to perform better than a new one with a potential to save up to $1 million or more in the process. That kind of math can be hard to resist.


2019 Eagle 407HP at a Glance
Conversion price: $925,000 (customer provides helicopter)

Engine: Honeywell HTS900-2-1D (1021 shaft horsepower)

Crew: 1–2

Passengers: 5–6

Maximum cruise speed: 140 kt

Range: 328 nm

Cabin   

   Height: 4 ft 2 in

   Width: 4 ft 8 in        

   Length: 5 ft

   Volume: 84 cu ft

Baggage; 16 cu ft

Source: Eagle

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