Remarkably, the JetRanger can trace its lineage back to an unsuccessful contender in a 1960 U.S. Army competition for a light observation helicopter. Originally designated the Bell YOH-4, the, then somewhat ungainly, prototype lost out to the Hughes OH-6 (Civilian Hughes 500) for the Army contract.
Despite their failure to win the Army contract, or perhaps because of it, Bell decided to try to sell their helicopter to the civilian market and redesigned it accordingly. To this end, Bell designers not only increased the cargo space, but they gave the reengineered helicopter the elegant form we know today.
To win the 1960 competition Hughes had submitted a very low price per airframe which did not include an engine. Naturally, the finished price was much higher, so, only six years after coming to this realization, the Army reopened the competition. In the 1967 competition Hughes offered their product with a more realistic price, and this time the sleeker, redesigned Bell 206-based OH-58 won out. A year later, the U.S. Navy selected the 206 as its primary trainer, to be called the TH-57 Sea Ranger. Used for training, command and control, reconnaissance, security, target acquisition and designation, the Army version is known as the “Kiowa” and its armed cousin as the “Kiowa Warrior.”
In addition to its sterling military record, the JetRanger became an even greater civilian success. The original 206 has evolved into the JetRanger II and JetRanger III with upgrades and more powerful engines. Since the first prototype, over 7000 of all variants of the JetRanger have been produced. In part because the JetRanger boasts the best auto-rotational characteristics of any helicopter flying today, it also can claim the best safety record of any helicopter in the industry.
The aircraft on display was acquired by Jim Smith in 1986
Power plant Allison 250-C20B
Empty weight 1,609 lbs
Max gross weight 3,200 lbs
Useful load 1,487 lbs
Cruise speed 120 mph
Max Speed 138 mph
Engine take-off power 420 shp
Ceiling 20,000 ft
Max range 374 nm 436 miles
Main rotor diameter 33.3 ft