Bell’s new helicopter to use Wichita-made aircraft battery

Mid-Continent Instruments’ True Blue Power division was selected by Bell Helicopter to provide the battery on its new 505 Jet Ranger X.
Mid-Continent Instruments’ True Blue Power division was selected by Bell Helicopter to provide the battery on its new 505 Jet Ranger X. Courtesy image

Mid-Continent Instruments’ True Blue Power division will have one of its batteries as standard equipment on Bell Helicopter’s new 505 Jet Ranger X, the company announced Monday.

It’s a first for True Blue, said Mid-Continent chief executive Todd Winter.

“I think this will help us bring (in) even more helicopters,” Winter said Monday from Louisville, Ky., where the Helicopter Association International is holding its annual Heli-Expo trade show.

“We’re engaged with quite a few (original equipment manufacturers) both in the United States and internationally. It’s definitely a good thing for Wichita,” he said.

Mid-Continent and True Blue employ 185 people in Wichita and Van Nuys, Calif., with the majority working at the plant at 9400 E. 34th St. North. Mid-Continent already provides a Standby Attitude Module on the Jet Ranger X, Winter said.

The True Blue TB17 lithium-ion battery will be used to start the turbine engine of the Jet Ranger X, which Bell expects to certify and begin deliveries of later this year.

“What it does is it validates the technology and investment and design work we’ve been doing for the past seven years,” Winter said of Monday’s True Blue announcement.

Seven years ago, Mid-Continent started the True Blue Power division in hopes of capturing more business that would focus on providing power for the next generation of general, business and commercial airplanes that have shed some of their mechanical and hydraulic systems for lighter and less-complex electrical systems.

In November, True Blue announced that R1 Airlines, based in Canada, would be the first commercial operator to install its lithium-ion main aircraft batteries in its fleet of Bombardier DHC-8-100, or “Dash 8,” twin turboprop airliners.

The on-demand charter service installed the battery after True Blue Power and R1’s parent company, Avmax, received a Part 25 Supplemental Type Certificate from Transport Canada to use the batteries on the Bombardier aircraft.

The battery that will be used on the Jet Ranger X is one that True Blue already produces and is already certified by the Federal Aviation Administration under a technical standard order.

Winter said it will undergo additional certification as part of the type certification of the Jet Ranger X.

Winter emphasized that True Blue’s lithium-ion batteries are not the same as the ones that have come under federal regulatory scrutiny recently for being transported as cargo by commercial aircraft.

“That’s for large volumes of batteries carried as freight,” he said. “It’s a completely different situation. Our product is very specialized … to meet the highest safety standards.”

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark