The JetRanger series has become the definitive turbine powered light utility and corporate helicopter of the past three decades.
The JetRanger can trace its lineage back to an unsuccessful contender for a US Army competition for a light observation helicopter, which was won by the Hughes 500. This first Model 206 made its first flight on December 8 1962, while the following civil 206A, powered by a 235kW (317shp) Allison C18A, followed, flying on January 10 1966. Deliveries of the first production JetRangers began late in that same year.
In the early 1970s production switched to the Model 206B JetRanger II with a 300kW (400shp) 250C20 turboshaft, while conversion kits to upgrade earlier As to the new standard were made available. The third major variant of the JetRanger is the 315kW (420shp) 250C20B powered JetRanger III, with first deliveries commencing in late 1977. Once again Bell offered a conversion kit to update earlier JetRangers to the new standard. Other features introduced on the JetRanger III were a larger and improved tail rotor and minor modifications.
JetRanger production was transferred from Texas to Mirabel in Canada in 1986, where the current production model remains the 206B3 JetRanger III.
The JetRanger was also accepted by the US Army as an observation helicopter as the OH58 Kiowa, and variants of the Kiowa remain in production in the USA. Military 206Bs were also built in Australia for the Australian Army, where plans were also held to build civilian 206Bs for the Australian market under license, but these fell through.
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