Between the A-Team, Miami Vice and Knight Rider, the 1980s was a classic era in television for people who love cool machines. But the short-lived Airwolf was my favorite 80s show of all because it featured a secret “stealth” and “supersonic” helicopter based on the Bell 222. Now, 30 years after the show was on the air, you can buy your own Bell 222 for about the same price as a new Lamborghini Aventador.
Here’s a quick timeline to understand the history of the Bell 222. The aircraft was the first light twin-engine helicopter to be developed in the U.S. for the commercial market, with the project first taking shape in the late 1960s. The first flight took place in 1976, and the first customer deliveries happened in 1980. Even though it still looks incredibly sleek and modern by today’s standards, the 222 is very much a classic design with systems pioneered many decades ago.
When the 222 entered service, it had quite a few noteworthy features. Most helicopters have skids because they’re lighter and less complex than wheels, but the 222 offered retractable landing gear. The rear wheels recede into sponsons (the little stubby wings towards the aft fuselage), which are one of the most prominent ways to identify a 222 visually. On the Airwolf helicopter, these sponsons were also used as hardpoints for machine guns. The 222 also had dual hydraulic and electrical systems, as well as a Noda-Matic vibration reduction system.
Bell fitted a pair of 650 horsepower Lycoming LTS-101 turboshaft engines to the 222, which has also been used in applications like the Eurocopter AS350 and Jay Leno’s EcoJet concept car from 2006. Twin engines obviously make more power than a single engine, but also add redundancy and an extra measure of safety to the aircraft. The “B” model of the Bell 222 had more powerful versions of the LTS-101 powerplant, while the Bell 230 which evolved from the 222 had even more powerful Allison 250 turboshafts.
This Bell 222 that’s being offered for sale (registration N212DM) has a manufacture date of 1981, meaning it is an “A” model and one of the earliest 222 models to be delivered. The seller states that it has accrued 4,637 hours, with 6,413 landings. For a 34 year old aircraft, that works out to about 136 hours and 188 landings per year. However, the aircraft just completed a fresh annual inspection last month.
While later versions of the 222 had skids so they could be used for missions like medevac, this one is purely a VIP transport machine. There’s seating in the main cabin for six on very nice-looking seats upholstered in grey leather. The carpeting is black on the floor and grey on the walls and appears to be very clean. The aft center seat has been converted to a minibar so you can toast to the good life, and there’s even a Sony AM/FM/CD stereo with a 10 disc changer for people who still listen to CDs.
In the cockpit, the aircraft has a single pilot IFR configuration, but there are two sets of controls. The avionics suite includes a weather radar, an Argus 5000 moving map, an Apollo GX50 GPS unit, an L-3 Skywatch collision avoidance system, and quite a few other instruments.
There are a few other Bell 222s on the market at the time of this writing, like this “B” model with upgraded engines and a larger main rotor. There’s also this Bell 430, a newer aircraft that was derived from the 222/230 platform and features a four-bladed main rotor, a stretched fuselage and more powerful engines. But if you want the most authentic aircraft on which to make your own Airwolf (which was an “A” model) then this one might be the perfect Bell 222 for you.
Interestingly, there is a Twitter account bearing this helicopter’s registration (@N212DM), apparently belonging to a gentleman named David Moyal. Mr. Moyal is the publisher of Next Magazine, an LGBT print publication in New York City. Based on an FAA records search and Mr. Moyal’s Instagram account, the N212DM registration appears to have been associated with other helicopters he owned or operated as charters in the past.
So, could you see yourself taking to the skies in this Bell 222? Would you have your props department turn it into an Airwolf replica, or leave it as-is? Let us know in the comments!
Photo credit: J.P. Hanley/Corporate AirSearch Intl.
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