The Bell 206L3 is a light single-engine turbine helicopter and is a much improved version of the stretched Bell 206 Jet Ranger launched by Bell in 1973. The stretch added only 1.7 feet to the aft cabin, but allowed installation of two seats canted slightly towards the centerline. This increased seating capacity to seven and allowed a more private cabin for four or five passengers behind the pilot. This proved to be an instant hit particularly with the air charter, corporate and EMS operators. Those who study the Model numbers of this helicopter will note that the Model numbers went from 206L1 to 206L3 and that there is no 206L2. The best explanation available is that the marketing folks decided to match the Model number with the number after the “LongRanger” name – the 206L1 is also the LongRanger II, which proved to be quite
confusing. Thus the 206L2 was skipped so that the Model number (206L3) would match the name number (LongRanger III).
The original LongRanger, the Bell 206L, used an upgraded transmission and the new “Nodamatic”transmission mounting. This reduced the vibration level in the cabin but it used the same engine as the Bell 206B, the 250-C20. This provided only indifferent performance and, in short order, Bell upgraded the engine to the more powerful 250-C28 model, improved the transmission, and installed a new tail rotor to handle the increased torque. At the same time, they redesigned the deck where the engine and transmission are mounted. At that time, they provided the system redundancy required for IFR certification. The Bell 206L1 proved to have very satisfactory performance, even under hot and high conditions. Subsequently, the engine was further upgraded to the 250-C30P model for the 206L3. This provided yet more horsepower. This engine upgrade can be retrofitted to the 206L1 and many operators have done this.
The design of the Bell 206L3 uses the same proven two-bladed teetering rotor used on the Bell 206L1. The engine used on the Bell 206L3 is the Rolls-Royce 250-C30P. A two-bladed tail rotor provides directional control and the main and tail rotor blades use an extruded aluminum spar with a honeycomb core and bonded skin. The fuselage is made of conventional aluminum alloy. The cabin has two seats in front and an aft cabin with two seats facing aft and a three-seat bench facing forward. The cabin is long enough to allow carrying of two stretchers, one on top of the other, on one side of the cabin. This leaves room for two medical attendants. As with the Bell 206, a skid landing gear is used for the sake of simplicity.
Design of the Bell 206L3 was launched in 1980. The first flight of the Bell 206L3 took place in 1981. Certification was received in 1982 and IFR certification was achieved the next year. Deliveries started the same year and continued until 1992, when this model was superseded by the Bell 206L4. Over 600 206L3s were delivered during this time. In 1987, production of this model was transferred from Texas to Montreal, Canada.