Smoother Ride for Bell

MAPL expected to drive down operating costs
David Carr
July 13, 2007
By David Carr
FUTURE INDUSTRY partnerships, new design commonality, major upgrades to the Model 427 and the launch of a medium utility aircraft are major components in Bell Helicopter’s strategy to make up ground that has been steadily lost since 2000. Waiting in the wings is the BA609 and the introduction of tiltrotor technology – an advance that several industry watchers predict has the potential to become the next game changer, especially in the corporate sector.

As the industry gathered in Las Vegas for Heli-Expo, however, there were signs that Bell’s fortunes had already changed. The company experienced a 20% jump in aircraft deliveries last year – 193 helicopters were pushed through the door, a combination of new, used and modified ships. Of these, a total 97 new aircraft were delivered to commercial operators including 10 sold in Canada. “We went through four years where we lost both in terms of order value and market share,” CEO Mike Redenbaugh told Helicopters. “That’s now part of the past.”

What is part of the future is a healthy 2004 production schedule, fed in part by a tenyear high of 67 aircraft orders in December 2003, and a bumper crop of more than 45 orders harvested during Heli- Expo. “These sales are reflective of the future for Bell. We have listened and responded to our customers,” said Redenbaugh, “and our customers have responded by showing their confidence in Bell with the strongest sign possible – they bought our aircraft.”

Redenbaugh chalks up some of Bell’s recent gains to behind-the-scenes reorganization and improvements in company processes. A 150- pound boost in the internal gross weight limit of the Model 206B3, for example, should reenergize the popular JetRanger line. Heli-Expo became a vehicle to move out of the back office to put something new in the shop window. And while not new by the strictest definition, what Bell did present should whet some Canadian appetites: especially the low-cost Bell 210 medium utility helicopter and the productivity improvements/ lower operating costs available from new products built under Bell’s Modular Affordable Product Line (MAPL) umbrella.

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