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A Bell 525 Relentless has crashed during flight testing south of Bell Helicopter’s Xworx facility in Arlington, Texas, killing two crewmembers on board.
A Bell spokesperson said the aircraft was “conducting developmental flight test operations” when the accident happened, and that its representatives were now onsite to assess the situation and assist local, state, and federal authorities. The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed in a tweet that it was investigating the crash.
“This is a devastating day for Bell Helicopter. We are deeply saddened by the loss of our teammates and have reached out to their families to offer our support,” Bell said in a statement.
“At this time we ask for your understanding as we work through all of the details. We will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.”
Photos of the crash site show a compact debris field, with only small fragments of the fuselage visible. WFAA reported eyewitness claims that the aircraft hit a power line and exploded, but the Texas Department of Public Safety said the aircraft did not strike the line and electricity transmission was unaffected.
One of the new breed of “super medium” class helicopters, the 525 Relentless was publicly unveiled at Heli-Expo 2012. The 20,000-pound gross weight class helicopter offers a standard seating configuration for 16 passengers and two pilots, with a typical cruise speed of 155 knots for distances of over 500 nautical miles. When certified, it will also be the first commercial fly-by-wire civil certified part 29 helicopter.
The aircraft that crashed was one of two prototypes currently working on the manufacturer’s flight test program, with test ship number three set to join the certification effort shortly. As of March, the test program had completed 130 flight test hours, putting it 40 percent ahead of schedule in test points to be accomplished for its targeted certification in late 2017.