Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison told AIN that his company is seeking airframe partners on its new 525 Relentless super-medium twin, which was announced last month at Heli-Expo in Dallas. “We’re looking at that. On the airframe side there are some potential partners that we are in detailed discussions with, but it is too early to announce anything yet,” he said.
Bell previously partnered with Korea Aerospace Industries and Mitsui Bussan Aerospace of Japan on the Bell 429 light twin and with China’s Hafei Aviation (Avic) on the now out-of-production Bell 430 twin. Garrison said he expects that the 525’s rotor and transmission systems will be fabricated at Bell facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, as will some of the composite parts for its fuselage.
When it launched the new model last month, Bell said it will assemble the 525 at its Amarillo, Texas plant, the current home of the V-22 tiltrotor assembly line. The newly released Pentagon budget renews the V-22 program at a reduced production rate of 98 aircraft between 2014 and 2017. If V-22 production continues beyond 2017, it is expected to do so at significantly reduced rates. The 525 work is thus needed to maintain jobs at the Amarillo facility.