When the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X launched in November 2014, it promised best-in-class performance for a variety of missions as a versatile, customer-driven vehicle that prioritized safety, performance and affordability – all with good reason. Now, almost seven years later, the five-seat, single-engine, turbine helicopter continues to deliver on its promise of providing remarkable and diverse experiences to people all over the world.
In June, Bell partnered with MCC Aviation, its customer for more than 40 years, to create a unique luxury experience with the Bell 505 for a South African couple – pilot, social media influencer and aviation enthusiast, Regomoditswe Isis Khoele, and her husband, Modise Kagiso Khoele. The experience included a carefully curated holiday weekend with the Bell 505 to one of South Africa’s premier game reserves and a photoshoot with renowned Slovenian photographer, Uros Podlogar.
Rego and Modise began their trip by flying the Bell 505 from Lanseria International Airport, Johannesburg, to the exclusive Kwa-Maritane Bush Lodge in Pilanesberg National Park. The 45-minute flight provided the pair with panoramic views of the stunning Pilanesberg terrain before they landed. The couple then spent their day on a game drive in the park, followed by a candlelit dinner under the stars.
The following day, the couple left the game lodge in the Bell 505 for more sightseeing of the surrounding mountains and plateaus of rolling grasslands and bushveld, before landing back at Lanseria International Airport. A few days later, in the second part of the experience, Bell flew Rego and Modise to Steyn City for the 67 Blankets event. The couple participated in the 67 Blankets at the Steyn City School alongside Bell’s team and MCC Aviation. Finally, the couple’s adventure came to a close with an equestrian tour of the Kincardine Estate.
From a trip to a game lodge, a quick stop in the city, then a visit to the countryside, the entire experience demonstrated the versatility of the Bell 505. It also showed its capability in creating unique and unforgettable memories. According to Rego, the brief getaway was an experience of a lifetime, and one she will appreciate for the rest of her life.
A unique opportunity
For Bell, the experience was more than an opportunity to highlight the versatility of its product line; it was also a way of addressing women’s underrepresentation in aviation, a traditionally male-dominated industry. In 2019, women made up just 1.5 percent of airline captains, five percent of pilots, 2.4 percent of mechanics, and three percent of CEOs in aviation. Knowing this, it was important for Bell to seek out a female aviator to collaborate with on its latest branding project – and Rego was the perfect fit.
A commercial pilot, Rego is passionate about amplifying female voices and creating opportunities for women in the aviation industry. Her burgeoning social currency as a pilot and influencer provides her valuable opportunities to do this through media appearances, school talks and brand collaborations such as the one with Bell.
Bell has over 1,000 aircraft operating in Africa and the Middle East, with the largest concentration of Bell helicopters in South Africa – over 247. Collaboration with regional pilots and leaders highlights Bell’s dedication to not only building advanced vertical lift products, but ensuring they deliver unmatched experiences for customers as well.
Ventures Africa interviewed Lynette Loosen, regional sales manager for Bell, Africa and the Middle East, to discuss the latest innovations in the Bell 505 and the company’s new approach to the customer experience, amongst other things.
What is unique about the Bell 505? How is it different from other helicopters in Bell’s diverse product line?
The Bell 505 is a class-leading aircraft that offers one of the lowest operating costs in its segment. It stands out due to its multi-function capabilities, which may be used in various helicopter missions ranging from emergency to corporate services. Customers who fly the Bell 505 are confident in the aircraft’s versatility and ability to fly in challenging terrains.
As Bell’s highly advanced short light single-engine aircraft, this aircraft’s dynamic platform offers a smooth, yet powerful flight for pilots and passengers. It exceeds operator expectations and masters vertical lift with ease. Also, the 505’s large windows provide panoramic views all around, which contributes to the aircraft’s popularity.
Who is the ideal Bell 505 customer?
The Bell 505 has a diverse consumer base. Some customers use it for its practicability and adaptability. It’s easy to convert the Bell 505 for staff, customers, operators, or freight use. Whether it is touring the coast, carrying a work crew and supplies deep into the mountains or providing external load services in a busy city, the 505 is agile, reliable and flexible.
Other customers use the Bell 505 to indulge their more adventurous side. From desert valleys and mountain peaks, they use the 505 to explore the world from a new perspective and see some of its most remote and otherwise inaccessible places of beauty.
The Bell 505 has also been used in public safety to assist in law enforcement operations and in the emergency services sector as a vital EMS platform to save lives. The Bell 505’s versatility offers the perfect blend of multi-mission capability, robust performance, and low cost of acquisition and operations. The aircraft is brilliant for training operations thanks to its easy-to-use platform and updated avionics making it the aircraft of choice for new aviators.
What new products and technologies have Bell invested into expanding the Bell 505’s capabilities?
Bell recently incorporated new avionics into the Bell 505 and an upgraded platform to give its customers the sheer thrill of flying with confidence in the helicopter’s technology. These upgrades, which include a dual-channel FADEC-controlled engine and an integrated Garmin G1000H NXi avionics system, propel the Bell 505 to the market’s most sophisticated short light single aircraft. The Bell 505 is simple to operate and ensures the success of every mission by providing pilots with a higher level of situational awareness and a decrease in burden.
Why this new marketing approach for the Bell 505?
At our core, we are a technology company redefining the future of flight. Part of this has to do with how we approach our relationships with aviators. The ability to empower and highlight female pilots in the industry presented a unique opportunity for Bell. We wanted to showcase our products connecting and providing unique experiences for individuals across the globe, and more specifically, how versatile the Bell 505 is for our customers.
Rego met the profile of a young and vibrant female pilot with vast experience in the aviation industry. Through her platform, she showcases Africa in an exceptional light alongside her passion for the aviation industry. We were able to showcase the Bell 505’s capabilities, while highlighting Bell’s relationship with MCC Aviation, a loyal Bell customer for over 40 years, through the collaboration with the ever-enthusiastic and dynamic Rego.
In your collaboration with Rego, were the themes of luxury and adventure developed to suit her online presence, or those were the themes Bell set out with initially? Why these themes?
The two worked out perfectly, as we looked for an aviator that already had such a presence about her and appealed to one of the largest Bell 505 markets being corporate, tourism and owner-operator use. We aimed to highlight the unique experiences one can achieve in a Bell 505, from going to a private game lodge to making a quick stop in the city.
Kindly describe Bell’s partnership with MCC Aviation.
MCC Aviation has been a Bell customer for over 40 years, operating various Bell aircraft during that time. Mike Barnes, the owner of MCC Aviation, has a passion for aviation and a deep love of flying, being a seasoned pilot himself, and utilizing the Bell 505 and Bell 407 to fly between his home and his businesses. In the past, Mike used his helicopters to visit his mining sites and remote business locations to save time. He also transported his employees’ home by helicopter to ensure they spent weekends and valuable time with their families.
Tell us about Bell’s operation in Africa.
Bell has over 1,000 aircraft operating in Africa and the Middle East, with the largest concentration of Bell helicopters in South Africa (over 247). Bell is known for its outstanding customer support and services, being rated number one in customer support from Vertical Magazine on numerous occasions.
For more than 85 years, Bell has been reimagining the experience and future of flying. Today, the company is elevating the commercial helicopter market with advanced aircraft and technology. Its game-changing innovations provide outstanding experiences to customers around the world efficiently, reliably and safely.