The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T continues in production for its single application: Bell’s 412EP/EPI utility helicopter. This civil-oriented helicopter offers a mix of high utility, heavy payload, and low price compared to helicopters offering the same passenger capacity.
The aircraft offers standard seating for 14 passengers and has a useful load of almost 5,000 pounds (2,272 kg). Its nearest competition in price and capacity is Airbus Helicopters’ H155, but the two aircraft are substantially different in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. The 412 can carry a much heavier sling payload than the H155, and its more powerful engines give it better hover performance in hot and high conditions.
Demand for the 412 comes mostly from offshore energy exploration and support operators, but the aircraft also has a substantial presence in the parapublic and search-and-rescue segments. Production of the 412EPI plummeted in recent years as demand from the offshore oil and gas sector dried up, and it is not clear that demand for the 412 will ever recover to its prior level.
Military operators occasionally order the aircraft to tackle utility missions at a lower cost relative to heavier military transport helicopters like the Sikorsky Black Hawk family.
The Japanese government selected a variant of the 412EPI for its UH-X helicopter replacement program in July 2015. Bell teamed with Subaru Corp (formerly Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd) to compete for the contract. Subaru previously built 130 UH-1J helicopters under license in Japan. Deliveries of the UH-X helicopters are scheduled to begin around 2021-2022.
If the UH-1J program is any guide, procurement will be at a low rate. Japan’s military received its last UH-1J in 2012, so much of its UH-1J fleet is not even close to needing replacement. The Ministry of Defense plans to procure 150 UH-X helicopters over a 20-year period in a gradual fleet recapitalization program. This program will keep the PT6T engine in production for many years to come.