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Smoother Ride for Bell

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.


July 13, 2007
By David Carr

Topics

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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