Fort Worth, Texas-based Bell Helicopter is riding the success of the upcoming Bell 505 Jet Ranger X and the two-year-old Bell 429 to increased sales activity in Europe. According to Patrick Moulay, managing director for Europe and Russia, sales activity was up 37 percent in 2013 versus 2012 after “more than doubling” the year before.
“We are investing in Europe,” Moulay told AIN, including a new customizing hub in Prague so EU customers can pick up their EASA-certified aircraft closer to home instead of traveling to the U.S. or Canada.
Although Bell would not provide specific total sales numbers, Moulay said the new five-seat “short light single” 505 with Bell’s first-ever Turbomeca engine and dual-channel Fadec is nearing 200 orders, of which “a very large part have been signed by European customers.” In Belgium, Bell has logged nine 505 sales. Most customers are private operators and flight training schools.
Moulay said the Bell 505, announced last year at the Paris Air Show and in mockup form at the Bell booth, is on track for first flight by the end of the year.
Some potential customers of the Bell 429 in Europe and the U.S. are frustrated that EASA and the FAA will not provide an exemption to operate the aircraft under Part 29 certification. The 429 is certified at the Part 27 7,000-pound (3,175 kg) takeoff weight, but it is also capable–in the opinion of Bell and some regulators–of flying safely at 7,500 pounds. To date, Transport Canada and 17 other national aviation authorities around the world have exempted the Bell 429 to Part 29.
“We have an aircraft which is capable of flying much beyond 7,000 pounds,” Moulay told AIN. The extra weight would “enable customers to use the full capability of the aircraft,” as well as create an extra safety margin by allowing the carriage of additional fuel.