Subaru’s new ‘souped up’ vehicle is a Bell helicopter
The new Subaru Bell 412 EPX… but, no Rally Armor flaps? (Image source: Bell Helicopter)
 

Subaru’s new ‘souped up’ vehicle is a Bell helicopter

The Bell 412 EPI is getting an upgrade.
[This Friday post is part of our “Composite coverage: real lightweight stuff” series and a departure from SAE International’s traditional reporting approach. Let us know if you like our fun, conversational, and most likely irreverent coverage of legitimate news and notable events.]  
 
Bell Helicopter, a division of Textron based in Forth Worth, Texas, is partnering with Subaru Corporation of Tokyo, Japan, to collaborate on a commercial enhancement of the Bell 412 EPI twin-engine utility helicopter, which was type-certified this month as the 412 EPX, in support of the Japan UH-X program.

With improved performance and safety features, the Subaru Bell 412 EPX will provide more capability while maintaining its long-established reputation for utility and reliability for commercial customers.

So basically – if I was to make another automotive reference – Subaru took the WRX Bell 412 EPI, tuned it up, installed some Recaro sport seats, and slapped an STI EPX badge on it.

 

The Bell 412 in EPI trim (Image source: Bell Helicopter)

 
But, hey… it worked.
 


The new Subaru Bell 412 EPX… but, no Rally Armor flaps? (Image source: Bell Helicopter)

 
The standard Bell 412 EPI comes equipped with the Bell BasiX Pro integrated avionic system, for increased situational awareness and safety features. Powering the 412EPI are two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T-9 Twin-Pac turboshaft engines, delivering 1,800 shaft horsepower at take-off and excellent “hot-high” and Category A/JAR OPS PC1 performance. Internal max gross weight is a substantial 11,900 pounds.
 


The cockpit layout is borrowed from the Bell 429, with Bell BasiX Pro integrated avionic system and four 10.4-inch high-res LCD multi-function displays. (Image source: Bell Helicopter)

 
The Bell 412 EPI has a variety of standard safety features: transmission with chip detection and debris collection, rollover bulkheads, and rupture resistant fuel cells. Optional features include wire strike protection system, vibration monitoring system, and self-sealing fuel cells.

 

Did we mention 220 cubic feet of cabin space and a 28 cubic-foot trunk? (Image source: Bell Helicopter)


The Bell 412 EPI also has very good handling.


 
The EPX trim pushes past the EPI in a few key categories. The Subaru Bell 412 EPX benefits from a more robust main rotor gearbox dry run capability, increased internal maximum gross weight to 12,200 pounds, and mast torque output of +11 percent at speeds below 60 knots. This extra oomph will give operators the ability to transport more supplies and achieve better operational efficiency.

In 2015, Subaru (formerly known as Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd.), a long-time partner with Bell, was awarded the contract for the Japan UH-X program to replace the Japan Ground Self Defence Force’s (JGSDF) current fleet of Bell UH-1J aircraft with a militarized derivative of the Bell 412 EPI, which would enable the JGSDF to protect and save lives across its challenging topography while addressing Japan’s unique requirements.

Sort of like building a rally version of a car… but for the air.
 


Some good ol’ hoonin’ (Image source: Subaru)
 

The JGSDF currently has 150 of these babies (the helicopters) on order.  

“Our relationship with Subaru extends over six decades. Together, we were the first to deliver military helicopters to Japan’s defense force. We look forward to continuing our successful collaboration on the UH-X and the 412 EPX Programs,” says Mitch Snyder, president and CEO of Bell Helicopter.

Automotive Helicopter enthusiasts will be happy to hear that the performance tuned model won’t be limited to overseas buyers. The Subaru Bell 412 EPX commercial variant is planned to become available to customers globally through Subaru and Bell in the future.

“Planned to.”

“In the future.”

Oh man, how many times have you heard those before…

But rest assured, a commercial prototype has already undergone testing at Bell’s facility in Mirabel, Canada, and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification was achieved on July 5, 2018.

“Under cooperation with Bell, the Subaru Bell 412 EPX will provide a great opportunity to expand the commercial business. Further, the UH-X, which will replace the current UH-1J aircraft, will start delivery to JGSDF in 2022 and will be deployed for island defense and disaster relief efforts,” says Shoichiro Tozuka, corporate executive vice president and president of the aerospace branch at Subaru.
 

Have fodder for Friday's Composite coverage: real lightweight stuff? Write me and let me know! (I could link my email address here, but then it would be in two places and you wouldn't have to read my bio to find it...)
 


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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include 'literally anything that has to do with space,' past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology. And also sportscars.
 
Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at william.kucinski@sae.org.
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