On Friday, one year and a day after the fatal crash of its first prototype, Bell Helicopter resumed the flight-test program of its Model 525 Relentless super-medium twin after receiving experimental certificate renewal from the FAA. “Bell Helicopter has worked with the NTSB and FAA since the accident and we are confident in the resumption of flight-test activity,” said Bell CEO Mitch Snyder. He added that Bell remains on track to certify the fly-by-wire 525 next year.
The flight-test program had been stood down since the fatal crash of 525 flight test vehicle 1 last July 6. Neither of the remaining two test aircraft had engaged in ground runs during the standdown. Two more test aircraft are being built at Bell’s plant in Amarillo, Texas. One of those new aircraft is expected to fly this year and the other early next year.
The NTSB has yet to issue its final report on the FTV-1 accident. That aircraft was conducting tests near Vne speeds when the main rotor rpm dropped off and the main rotors departed the normal rotation plane and struck both the tailboom and the nose during the in-flight break-up sequence that destroyed the helicopter, according to the NTSB. A Bell executive told AIN last year that the company was making unspecified modifications to the remaining test aircraft in the wake of the accident.