Bell CEO Wants More National Investment in Rotorcraft

 - September 3, 2014, 5:50 AM
Bell CEO John Garrison pointed to Europe and Canada as examples of regions with well funded future rotorcraft initiatives that provide the support necessary for the development of programs that enhance industry safety and efficiency.

Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison wants more “national investment” to develop advanced rotorcraft to keep U.S. OEMs globally competitive.

Speaking at the Aero Club of Washington on July 29, Garrison noted, “Industry investment, coupled with a regulatory environment that keeps pace with innovation, will go a long way to meeting the growing demands [for helicopters]. But the final component of innovation is national investment and a sustained investment in technology.”

Garrison pointed out that both Canada and Europe recently launched well funded future rotorcraft initiatives, while the U.S. government’s commitment is relatively paltry. “Europe is making significant investments in rotorcraft technology through the Green Rotorcraft program, which is part of its Clean Sky and Clean Sky 2 programs, a combined $3.5 billion program investing in breakthrough technology. There are investments in the U.S., but relative to our GDP [gross domestic product], they are quite modest. Darpa [the Pentagon’s R&D arm] has initiated a vertical-lift research project that will average about $30 million per year, and NASA aeronautics funding continues to lack prioritization in the agency’s budget,” Garrison said.

“If our industry is going to meet future commercial demand and public needs, we’ll need to bring innovation to the market that enhances the safety and efficiency of these operations. That innovation requires investment and commitment on all levels: OEMs, operators, regulators and policymakers,” he said. “So I encourage U.S. policymakers to look closely at our nation’s investment in aeronautics, and particularly rotorcraft. U.S. leadership in aviation is not an entitlement–it is earned–and if we don’t make the investment and maintain a sustainable effort, that leadership will be in jeopardy.”

Garrison also called for regulatory reform “that rewards innovation and adapts quickly to change,” specifically changing the certification rules for helicopters under Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) Parts 27 and 29. (See article on page XX.) “This kind of change in our regulations would foster an industry environment where our customers can quickly adopt the most innovative technology and enhance the safety of their missions. We’re at an important juncture in the industry and have the opportunity to share an even safer future. The modernization of our regulatory structure will be a key factor in industry success but more important, [in] the success of our customers.”

He said Bell is “ready to commit the resources to move the ball forward on rotorcraft safety.

“Safety is the number-one goal of the FAA and our industry, and there is no reason we cannot work together to safely and efficiently integrate new technologies into aircraft, and achieve a regulatory environment that can keep pace with innovation,” he said.