The Bell 222 is an American twin-engine light helicopter built by Bell Helicopter. A cosmetically modified version of the 222 was used as the titular aircraft in the American television series Airwolf.
In the late 1960s, Bell began designing a new twin-turbine engine light helicopter. A mock-up of the new helicopter was displayed in January 1974 at a helicopter convention. Following interest at the convention the company announced the new Bell 222. It was the first light commercial twin-turbine helicopter developed in the United States.
The Bell 222 incorporated a number of advanced features including dual hydraulic and electrical systems, sponsons housing the retractable landing gear, and the Noda Matic vibration reduction system developed for the Bell 214ST.
Manufacturing began in 1975. The Model 222 first flew on August 13, 1976. It received certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on August 16, 1979 and was approved for visual flight rules (VFR) use on December 20, 1979. Helicopter deliveries began on January 16, 1980. The FAA approved the 222 for single-pilot instrument flight rules (IFR) operation on May 15, 1980.
The more powerful Bell 222B was introduced in 1982 with a larger diameter main rotor. The 222B-based Bell 222UT Utility Twin, with skid landing gear, was introduced in 1983.
The design includes two main rotor blades of stainless-steel-fiberglass construction and rotor hub with elastomeric bearings, which are lubricant free. Its cabin holds a maximum of ten persons with one-two pilots and eight-nine passengers. Seating configurations include standard seating for a pilot and seven passengers; or executive seating with one-two pilots and seating for five-six. The Bell 222 is usually flown single-pilot (optional dual controls are available), and can be configured for corporate/executive, EMS or utility transport missions.
The Bell 222 is powered by twin Lycoming/Honeywell LTS101-650 turboshaft engines, rated at 592 shp each. Later 222 versions feature more powerful engines. Engine output is at 100% of rating at 9598 RPM. Two independent driveshaft’s deliver power from the engines to the transmission. The Bell 222's LTS engine exhaust stacks are located at the rear of the engines, while the 230's Allison engine exhaust stacks are located high on the cowling. Fuel is stored in three tanks, one in the fuselage and one in each sponson. The main rear landing gear retracts into the sponsons.
Two-blade, semi-rigid high-kinetic energy main rotor with preconing and underslinging. The rotor head incorporates elastomeric bearings for hub springs, and flapping and pitch change bearings. The system is similar in design to that used by the AH-1 Cobra. Rotor speed at 100% engine speed is 348 RPM.
All series models incorporate a pusher-type two-bladed tail rotor mounted on the left side of the tailboom, turning at 3396 RPM.
The original Model 222, sometimes unofficially called a Bell 222A to distinguish it from the Bell 222B. It was powered by two (618 hp take-off rated, 591 hp max continuous rated) Honeywell LTS-101-650C-3 turboshafts.
In 1982 the 222 was given a power upgrade two Honeywell LTS-101-750Cs with take-off rating of 680 hp each, a larger main rotor, and was renamed the Bell 222B.
A 222B variant with skids, introduced in 1983, allowed for larger auxiliary fuel tanks in the absence of retractable landing gear these were known as B222UT’s
In 1991 the 222B design was updated, given more powerful engine versions, and renamed the Bell 230. Production ended in 1995.
During the 1990s, some Bell 222s were modified with the 222B's engines and 230's Allison 250-C30G engines for improved single engine (engine-out) performance, and redesignated as 222SPs.
In 1995 the Bell 430, a stretched 230 (adding another seating row), was launched, with more powerful engines and a four-blade main rotor.