Bell 412 EPI

Bell 412EPI

The iconic “Huey” helicopter series has witnessed major enhancements, but recent models are as rugged and easy to maintain as their predecessors.

Few aircraft change lives and history and become touchstones of popular culture. One that has done all that is the Bell UH-1 “Huey” helicopter, which over the last seven decades has been produced in multiple variants, including the Model 412EPI. 

The Huey gave rise to the “air cavalry” and the way today’s armies fight wars around the globe—and how the wounded survive. Forty-five countries flew it. More than 16,000 were produced and 7,000 saw service during the Vietnam War, where they saved the lives of an estimated 90,000 patients. They changed the way public agencies battle wildfires—snuffing out little fires from the air before they could become large and deadly. They enhanced the ability of police and fire departments—including in New York and Chicago—to conduct rescue operations over their adjacent bodies of water and expeditiously deploy tactical law enforcement teams. They transformed how offshore oil workers commute, especially in politically hostile environments such as Nigeria, where rebels greeted the simple and rugged aircraft with small arms fire to little or no effect. 

They also lit up the big screen. Who could forget the panoramic shot of incoming Hueys blasting Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries from loudspeakers as they took a beach in director Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 epic war film Apocalypse Now? Or the wrenching retelling of 1965’s Battle of la Drang in 2002’s We Were Soldiers? Step into any Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion post and you’re likely to see framed photos of Hueys on the walls. You might also view a retired Huey planted atop a post in the parking lot, its main rotor blades creaking in the wind. Step up to the bar and you might hear men and women in their 70s and 80s talking about how a Huey saved them or a buddy. 

As you’d expect, the helicopter’s design has evolved over the years. It has grown longer, heavier, more powerful, and able to carry more fuel. The original single-engine design morphed into a twin. The two-bladed main rotor system was replaced by a four-bladed one. The analog instruments were superseded by digital ones with flat-panel displays. The nomenclature designations changed, from 204 to 205, 212, 214, and today’s 412 (main rotor with four blades, one tail rotor, two engines).

Some Things Have Stayed the Same

What hasn’t changed are the aircraft’s basic and rugged construction and comparative simplicity of maintenance. In an era of helicopters that have “evolved” into complex flying SUVs, today’s 412 stands defiantly alone as the airborne equivalent of an uncomplicated pickup truck. Every day, somewhere in the world, someone is turning a wrench outdoors on a Huey—even outdoors in miserable conditions and without any computerized diagnostic tools.

The first Bell 412 flew in 1979 and since then more than 1,100 have been produced in 11 military and civil variants, including some that were manufactured under license in Indonesia, Italy, and Japan. Bell introduced the first 412EPI in 2013. It features a glass cockpit based on the Bell BasiX flight deck with four 10.4-inch primary and multifunction displays like those on Bell’s 429 light twin. The avionics were designed to meet the requirements of twin-engine helicopters and optimized for flight in instrument flight rule (IFR) conditions, and the helicopter is approved for single-pilot IFR operations. The avionics suite also provides safety features including crew-alerting systems, high-resolution digital maps, electronic charts and approach plates, an ADS-B transponder and optional Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System (H-TAWS), and SiriusXM satellite weather links. 

Bell 412EPI cockpit

The 412EPI also has more powerful Pratt & Whitney PT6T-9 Twin-Pac engines with electronic controls and the BLR strake and FastFin system, which improves high/hot payload capacity by up to 1,410 pounds, according to Bell. FastFin modifies the tailboom to improve airflow and increase lift and improve handling. The PT6T-9 engines provide 15 percent more power than the engines on the model’s predecessor, the Bell 412EP. In 2016, the 412EPI flew around Mount Everest, demonstrating landings and takeoffs at 15,200 feet, hovering at 18,000 feet, and flying at altitudes up to 20,000 feet. The aircraft has survivability features built into it, including crash-resistant fuel cells and bulkheads designed to protect occupants in a rollover.

The wide flat-floor cabin can be configured to seat up to 14 and carry slightly more than 5,000 pounds. In executive/VIP configuration, seating capacity decreases to between six and nine. Total cabin volume is 220 cubic feet and there are 28 cubic feet of in-cabin baggage stowage. Entry and egress are through a pair of large, 7.7-foot-wide sliding doors. The cabin can be a tad loud and you will want headsets for all the passengers. Most 412s are fitted with skid landing gear. Make no mistake, this is a large helicopter, measuring 56 feet in overall length, with a main rotor diameter of 46 feet. 

The last 412EPI was manufactured in 2022 under contract by PT Dirgantara Indonesia for the Indonesian Army. In 2016, the 412EPI sold new for $11 million, and a used one now retails for around $6.5 million, according to the valuation service Vref.

A modernized version of the 412EPI, the Subaru-Bell 412EPX, was certified in 2018. The 412EPX features a more robust main rotor gearbox with 30-minute run-dry capability and an increased internal maximum gross weight of 12,200 pounds. It has a maximum cruising speed of 123 knots (maximum speed 140 knots) and a range of 361 nautical miles. In addition, the 412EPX includes the BLR FastFin system, a pair of Pratt & Whitney PT6T-9 engines, and the second generation of the Bell BasiX-Pro integrated avionics. The 412EPX is the civil variant of a military helicopter Bell designed primarily for Japan’s Self Defense Force to fill an order for up to 150 aircraft. Customers with 412EPX helicopters on order include the New York City Police Department’s aviation unit. 

Regardless of the nomenclature, the 412 will always be branded a “Huey” for those who fondly remember its important place in rotorcraft history. 

Bell 412EPI

2016 Bell 412EPI at a Glance

Price new: $11 million

Retail now: $6.5 million 

Engines: Pratt & Whitney PT6T-9, 1122 shp (takeoff power) 

Avionics: Bell BasiX, Garmin 

Crew: 1–2 

Passengers: Up to 14 

Cabin: 220 cu ft

Range: 363 nm (no reserve) 

Cruising speed: 124 kt