The Bell 222B was a significant redesign of the Bell 222A. The redesign was prompted by pressure from the marketplace and addressed some of the shortcomings of the 222A. Although the differences between the 222A and the 222B are significant, the only readily apparent external difference is that the 222B has strakes on the bottom near the outboard edge of the landing gear sponsons.
The Bell 222 had its genesis in the early 1970s when it became clear that there was a demand for a medium twin-engine turbine helicopter for the offshore and corporate market. Bell, among others, launched a series of design studies that resulted in a decision to launch the Bell 222 in 1974. The subsequent design represented many firsts for Bell. It was Bell's first helicopter designed from scratch for the civilian market; it was not based on any military design; it had a retractable, wheeled landing gear; its rotor system design was the first to depart from the teetering rotor developed in the 1940s by Art Young; and it used a newly developed engine, the Lycoming LTS 101. On paper this was a great engine, with a high power-to-weight ratio and modest fuel consumption. Unfortunately, even in the upgraded form used on the Bell 222B, it proved to be less reliable than the customers expected and this was one of several factors, including a serious recession in the helicopter industry, which severely limited the market potential for this helicopter.
The Bell 222B uses a two-bladed rotor attached to the hub with elastomeric bearings for the flapping, lagging and pitch change motions. Compared to the 222A rotor, the diameter of the 222B rotor is 2.25 feet greater. This allowed a substantial increase in takeoff gross weight. The upgraded main transmission continued use of the “nodamatic” suspension system to reduce vibration levels. The engines used on the Bell 222B are the Honeywell (Lycoming at the time) LTS 101-750C1. A two-bladed tail rotor mounted on an extended tail boom (compared to the 222A) provides directional control. The cabin provides two compartments and was not changed from the cabin of the 222A. The pilot compartment seats two and the passenger cabin seats up to eight. The fuselage is made of conventional aluminum alloys. The passenger cabin is available in three basic configurations. One is a corporate interior with two comfortable seats facing aft and a three-place bench facing forward. The second, the utility configuration, has three forward-facing seats rows (two with three seats and one with two seats). The third configuration is for EMS operators. This configuration puts two stretchers, two medical attendants and medical gear in the cabin. Single and dual pilot IFR certification was available as an option.
Development of the Bell 222B was initiated in 1981 and the first flight of the Bell 222B prototype occurred later that year. Certification to the standards of FAR 29 was obtained in 1982, as was IFR and Category A certification. Approximately 25 Bell 222Bs were produced during this aircraft’s production run from 1982 to 1986.