Bell 222, 230 & 430

Following the trend set by Agusta and Sikorsky Bell Helicopters could not stay behind in developing a helicopter with a streamlined fuselage and a retractable gear. This became the Bell 222, that later evolved into the Bell 230 and Bell 430.

While there are significant differences between the family members, they all have in common a rear fuselage that gradually transitions into a narrow tail boom. A two blade tail rotor is mounted on the left end of the tail boom. There are low mounted horizontal stabilisers on both sides about halfway the tail boom. At their ends are swept vertical fins extending up and down. The Bell has two turboshaft engines on top of the fuselage, of which the exhaust shape depends on the exact model. Most versions have a single nose wheel that retracts forward in the fuselage. The nose gear doors are not visible when the gear is extended. The single wheel main gear retracts in thick stubs with an airfoil shape, attached to the fuselage. Note that there are many Bell 222s, 230s and 430s with skids though. The final characteristic are the skylight windows in the cockpit area.

The trailing link main gear of the wheeled versions of the Bell 222, 230 and 430 is retracted in thick stubs that have the shape of an airfoil.

The Bell 222, 230 and 430 have a rather narrow tail boom and vertical fins. Note the swept end plates of the horizontal stabilisers.

Different versions

To distinguish the different versions of the Bell 222 family you'll have to look at

  • the location and shape of the exhausts
  • the number of main rotor blades
  • whether the heli has a fixed or retractable gear, or skids
  • the number of cabin windows
  • the shape of the horizontal stabiliser end plates
  • the shape of the vertical fins

Bell 222

This Bell model start with a '2' in the designa­tion, so it has a two blade main rotor. The round, diagonally cut-off exhausts are located at the end of the gear box/engine hub, near the start of the tail boom. The Bell 222 has two cabin windows on each side. Sometimes this version is called Bell 222A, to differentiate it from the Bell 222B.

The original Bell 222 has a two blade main rotor on a rather long rotor mast. (photo: Pedro Aragão/WikiMedia)


Bell 222B

The updated version of the original 222 is designated Bell 222B. It has uprated engines, with still the same exhaust shape, and extended main rotor blades. More importantly, the rotor mast is slightly longer, although you will probably only see it when you see the 222 and 222B side-by-side. Finally, the vertical fins are longer and narrower.

At the first Bell 222B seems not that different from the Bell 222, but look at the vertical fins: they ar taller and narrower. Less obvious is the taller rotor mast. (photo: Elisabeth Klimesch/WikiMedia)


Bell 222UT

Basically, the utility version of the Bell 222 is a Bell 222 with skids. For the rest it has the characteristics of the B model: uprated engines with the same exhaust shape, extended main rotor blades, longer rotor mast and longer and narrower vertical fins.

The Bell 222UT can best be distinguished from Bell 230s with skids by the location and shape of the exhausts. (photo: Pete Markham/WikiMediaphoto: Pete Markham/WikiMedia)


Bell 222SP

This is an engine upgrade of the original Bell 222s. It has two exhausts pointing up and aft, and are located on top of the gear box/engine housing, behind the rotor mast. 

Two exhausts on top of the gear box/engine housing are the key feature of the Bell 222SP. (photo: Peter de Zeeuw)

Bell 230

When the Bell 222B was updated again, it got a new designation, Bell 230. It has different engines, with long round exhausts at the top of the gear bix/engine housing. It comes in wheels and skids versions.

Although better visible on the detail photo of the Bell 430 below, you can still see the long exhaust pipes of the Bell 230, its main recognition point, apart from the two blade rotor.

Bell 430

As the only family member with a four blade main rotor, hence the designation Bell 430, this version is easily recognisable. In addition, the fuselage is longer, allowing for a third but narrow cabin window next to the cockpit side window. Finally, the trailing edge of the horizontal stabiliser end plates has a dent and the vertical fins are even taller and narrower than on the Bell 230.

The Bell 430 has a four blade main rotor and a third, narrow cabin window in front of the large rectangular one.

Having different engines, the exhaust shape and location of the Bell 430 (and 230) is different from the 222 models.

Confusion possible with

Leonardo AW109 (Agusta A109)


Agusta was early later on the market with an execu­tive helicopter, and it looks similar regarding the fuse­lage and tail rotor. The tail boom of the A109 ends very pointed and the main gear retracts in small stubs (unless it has skids). Also the nose gear doors are visible when the gear is extended. The tail rotor is placed low like on the Bell. Finally, the horizontal stabilisers have no end plates.

Leonardo AW139/AW169


The AW139 and AW169 have a similar fuse­lage as the Bell helicopters. How­ever, the Leonardo helicopters have a high placed tail rotor on the right and horizontal stabilisers with bent-up tips and the end of the tail boom. The main gear of the AW139/AW169 retracts in narrower sponsons. Finally, it has a twin wheel nose gear.

Sikorsky S-76


Being used for a similar role, the Sikorsky S‑76 looks similar to the Bell 430 in parti­cular. The tail boom remains wider though and the four blade tail rotor is at the top of the vertical fin. The main gear is retracted rearward in the fuselage.