The Eagle 407HP’s mission capabilities are having an impact around the world. One business who knows this is Helicopter Express, a US-based operator who primarily fights wildfires for the US Forest Service in the American West and Southeast.
Eagle delivered the first 407HP, a conversion of a Bell 407 from Helicopter Express’ fleet in which the standard Rolls Royce engine was replaced with a Honeywell HTS900, in November 2016. Delivery of a second Eagle 407HP quickly followed in February 2017.
Helicopter Express found the conversion improved the 407’s performance above 6,000 feet and 25 degrees Celsius substantially beyond that of the standard aircraft. Their Bell 407 could only carry a 120 gallon water bucket; the Eagle 407HP carries a 180 gallon bucket. Helicopter Express President and COO Richard Kittrell was pleased with the results. “Eagle’s conversion has given us 300 pounds of added payload at altitude, depending upon atmospheric conditions, which is where we work. The Eagle 407HP is head and shoulders above everything else.”
Kittrell was initially skeptical of claims of the Eagle 407HP’s reduced fuel burn, however he changed his mind after seeing the high-performance aircraft fly approximately 300 nautical miles in two and a half hours, burning around 100 gallons of fuel and “landing with plenty of reserves”.
“We would have never even planned that before with the Bell 407 – 250 nautical miles was the edge of our range,” he said, “so the Eagle 407HP does have lower fuel burn. We’ve been pleasantly surprised.”
The Eagle 407HP’s performance and fuel efficiency means the high-performance aircraft can carry one more firefighter with gear or more water than the Bell 407. It can also spend more time dropping water on a fire before it needs to refuel, an invaluable asset when fighting fires.
After seeing the Eagle 407HP perform, Kittrell believes the aircraft is “set to redefine the Type III class of firefighting helicopters.” Helicopter Express are so impressed with their Eagle 407HP that they have requested two further conversions, which Eagle is on track to deliver by to the end of 2017.