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Bell 206

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Bell 206
Bell 206 JetRanger
Type Multipurpose utility helicopter
Manufacturer Bell Helicopter Textron
Introduced 1967
Status Active service
Primary users United States Army
United States Navy
Variants OH-58 Kiowa
Bell 407

The Bell Helicopter Model 206 JetRanger is a two-bladed main rotor, turbine powered helicopter with a conventional, two-bladed tail rotor. The aircraft uses hydraulic boosted flight controls.


In October 1961, the Army submitted a request for proposals (RFP) for the Light Observation Helicopter (LOH). Bell, along with 12 other manufacturers (including Fairchild-Hiller and Hughes Tool Co. Aircraft Division), entered the competition.[1] Bell submitted their design for Model 206, which was selected out of the design phase of the Navy-run competition by the Army[2] and designated as the YHO-4A.[3][4]

YOH-4A LOH in flight

Bell produced five prototype aircraft in 1962 to submit to the army for the test and evaluation phase. During the testing phase, the test pilots complained about the power problems of the aircraft, an issue that apparently knocked it out of the running, because when the winners were announced to progress on to the final selection phase, Bell's YOH-4A wasn't selected.[5] Afterwards, Bell attempted to market the model 206, but it didn't fare well commercially. Bell's market research showed that it was the body design that customers found mostly unpalatable. Bell redesigned the fuselage of the airframe to be more sleek and aesthetic, and reintroduced it as Model 206A JetRanger which was a commercial success.[6]

The 206A, and B are five-seat designs, with two seats in the front and a three seat bench in the back.

206L LongRanger

The 206L LongRanger is a stretched variant with seating for seven (the LongRanger, stretched a total of 30 inches, adds two rear-facing seats in between the front and rear seats). Since their first delivery in 1975, Bell has produced more than 1,700 L's across all varient types. In 1981 a military version was released, the 206L "TexasRanger". The original 206L utilized a Allison 250-C20B engine, and a series of model upgrades replaced this engine with more powerful versions; the 206L-1 used a 250-C28 and the 206L-3 and 206L-4 used the 250-C30P with 490 shaft horsepower.

In 2007, Bell announced an upgrade program for the 206L-1 and 206L-3 which is designed to modify the aircraft to the 206L-4 configuration; modified aircraft are designated 206L-1+ and 206L-3+. Modifications include strengthened airframe structural components (including a new tailboom), improved transmission, upgraded engine for the L-1, all of which result in a max gross weight increase of 300 pounds and increased performance.[7]

Gemini ST and TwinRanger

The TwinRanger name dates back to the mid-1980s when Bell first developed the Bell 400 TwinRanger, but it never entered production.[8]

In 1989, Tridair Helicopters' began developing a twin engine conversion of the LongRanger, the Gemini ST. The prototype's first flight was on January 16, 1991, while full FAA certification was awarded in November. Certification covers the conversion of LongRanger 206L-1s, L-3s and L-4s to Gemini ST configuration.[8] In mid-1994 the Gemini ST was certificated as the first Single/Twin aircraft, allowing it to operate either as a single or twin engine aircraft throughout all phases of flight.[8]

The Bell 206LT TwinRanger was a new build production model equivalent to Tridair's Gemini ST, and was based on the 206L-4. Only 13 206LTs were built, the first being delivered in January 1994, and the last in 1997. The TwinRanger was replaced in Bell's line-up by the mostly-new Bell 427.[8]


Derived from the Model 206, the Bell 407 and OH-58D use a newer, 4-bladed, soft, in-plane rigid rotor system which offers improved performance while reducing vibration and noise. The Bell 417 was a follow-on to the 407, but it's development was cancelled.

Operational history

The JetRanger entered the civilian market in 1967. The Model 206 has since been updated three times, with the 206B "JetRanger II" arriving in 1971 and the 206B-3 "JetRanger III" with its modified tail rotor and more powerful engine in 1977. The basic shape and design remain unchanged since 1967.

The JetRanger is popular with news media for traffic and news reporting. The U.S. Army eventually selected the 206 for use as the OH-58 Kiowa, fulfilling its originally intended role. The United States Navy and Marines use 206 variants known as the TH-57 Sea Ranger. The TH-67 Creek variant is used by the U.S. Army as a trainer for helicopter students. The LongRanger is commonly used as an air ambulance (the standard JetRanger version is too short for this function).

The Model 206 is flown by a single pilot, who sits in the front right seat. In flight plans the ICAO designator for the JetRanger and the LongRanger is B06.

The Bell 206 was the first helicopter to fly around the world and was piloted by Australian Businessman Dick Smith in 1983. During the trip he landed on container ships at sea to refuel.



  • Bell 206 - Five (5) YOH-4A prototypes, for flight evaluation in the Army's LOH program (1963).
  • Bell 206A - FAA-certified in 1966. Selected as the OH-58A Kiowa in 1968.
    • Agusta-Bell 206A - License-built in Italy
  • Bell 206A-1 - OH-58A aircraft that are reverse-modified for FAA civil certification.[9]
  • Agusta-Bell 206A-1 - License-built in Italy
  • Bell 206B - Upgraded Allison 250-C20 engine.[10]
    • Agusta-Bell 206B - License-built in Italy
  • Bell 206B-2 - Bell 206B models upgraded with Bell 206B-3 improvements.[10]
  • Bell 206B-3 - Upgraded Allison 250-C20J engine and added 2 inches to tail rotor diameter for yaw control.[10]
  • Bell 206L - Stretched, seven seat configuration. 250-C20B engine.
    • Agusta-Bell 206L LongRanger - License-built in Italy
  • Bell 206L-1 - 250-C28 engine
    • Agusta-Bell 206B-1 - License-built in Italy
  • Bell 206L-1+ - Bell modifications, including 250-C30P engine, to upgrade aircraft to 206L-4 configuration
  • Bell 206L-3 - 250-C30P engine
    • Agusta-Bell 206B-3 - License-built in Italy
  • Bell 206L-3+ - Bell modifications to upgrade aircraft to 206L-4 configuration
  • Bell 206L-4 - 250-C30P engine and transmition upgrade.
  • Bell 206LT TwinRanger - twin-engined conversions and new-builds of the 206L; replaced by the Bell 427
  • Bell 407 - based on the 206L with four-bladed rotor system
  • Bell 417 - upgraded 407 with bigger engine; project cancelled.


Bell 206L TexasRanger in 1981
Bell 206AS
Export version for the Chilean Navy.
OH-58 Kiowa 
Light observation helicopter that replaced the OH-6A Cayuse.
40 commercial Bell 206A aircraft purchased as the primary U.S. Navy helicopter trainer in January 1968, designated "Sea Ranger".[1]
206L TexasRanger 
proposed export military version, only a demonstrator was built in 1981.
45 commercial Bell 206B-3 helicopters purchased in 1989 as replacements for the TH-57A for primary training under visual flight rules.
71 commercial Bell 206B-3 helicopters purchased in 1989 with cockpits configured for advanced training under instrument flight rules.
Planned upgrade program to convert TH-57B and TH-57C to a single standard digital cockpit.[2]
TH-67 Creek 
137 commercial Bell 206B-3 purchased in 1993 as the primary helicopter trainer for the U.S. Army. 35 in VFR configuration and 102 in IFR configuration.[3]


File:World operators of the Bell 206.png
Military operators of the Bell 206
Bell 206A Jet Ranger, built 1967

Specifications (206B-3)

File:IMG 200701310004.jpg
Bell 206B JetRanger taking off from Vancouver Harbour HeliJet pad.

Data from {Bell 206B-3 Product Specifications}[11]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Capacity: 4
  • Length: 39 ft 8 in (12.11 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 33 ft 4 in (10.16 m)
  • Height: 9 ft 4 in (2.83 m)
  • Disc area: 872 ft² (81.1 m²)
  • Empty weight: 1,713 lb (777 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 3,200 lb (1,451 kg)
  • Powerplant:Allison 250-C20J turboshaft, 420 shp (310 kW)



File:IMG 200702020040.jpg
Bell 206L-4 Long Ranger IV operated by CTV News, is taking off from Vancouver Harbour helipad.
  1. Steve Remington. The Cessna CH-1 Helicopter. CollectAir (
  2. George A. Spangenberg. "George A. Spangenberg Oral History".
  3. Robert Beechy (18 November 2005). U.S Army Aircraft Acquisition Programs. Uncommon Aircraft 2006.
  4. Rotary Aircraft Designation Crosswalk.
  5. Johan Visschedijk. Bell 206 JetRanger.
  6. American Helicopter Museum: Bell 206 JetRanger.
  7. Kocurek, Mark "206L Upgrade Program", Rotorbreeze Magazine, July 2007
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Frawley, Gerard: The International Directory of Civil Aircraft, 2003-2004, page 43. Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd, 2003. ISBN 1-875671-58-7
  9. TYPE CERTIFICATE DATA SHEET NO. H2SW, Revision 42. Federal Aviation Administration( (27 June 2006).
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Ron and Shannon Bower (1 May 2003). Bell 206:Still Ringing True. Aviation Today (
  11. Product Specifications. Bell Helicopter (January 2006). Retrieved on 13 November 2007.

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