Bell is looking to ramp up sales of both military and civilian helicopter models here in the Asia Pacific region. For the first time, the U.S. Marine Corps has brought a Bell/Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor to the Singapore show. The Marine Corps is holding briefings on the MV-22 as well as two other newer Bell models that are quickly becoming fleet mainstays: the AH-1Z “Viper” gunship and the UH-1Y “Venom” utility/attack helicopter, the latest iteration of the venerable “Twin Huey.” Bell also is debuting an AH-1Z cockpit demonstrator at the show.
The U.S. rotorcraft manufacturer’s emphasis to find fresh export markets for all three models is driven by recently released forecasts from analysts, including Frost & Sullivan, that U.S. military helicopter acquisitions will be halved between now and 2018, with Pentagon orders for all three models to end on or before that date and significant questions regarding the long-term prospects of new programs, such as the Joint Multi-Role/Future Vertical Lift. Worldwide, Bell has made significant gains on the civil side of its business in recent years, even as defense sales prepare to wane. The trend continued last year as the company’s deliveries of commercial helicopters increased by 13 percent–from 188 to 213–between 2012 and 2013, and overall Bell posted increased revenues to $4.51 billion and profits of $573 million, a 10-percent decline over the previous year.
That profit decline is not surprising given Bell’s continuing investment in modernized infrastructure and new commercial products, including the ambitious super-medium twin 525 “Relentless,” aimed straight at the burgeoning offshore oil-and-gas market and scheduled to make its first flight later this year, and the new SLS “short light single”–the long-awaited replacement for the B206–announced last summer.
Bell (Booth Q01) already has an extensive embedded customer base throughout the Asia Pacific region, with 1,136 of its aircraft based here; 202 of them military models and another 140 flying parapublic missions. The remainder consists of helicopters flying civil missions, most commonly general utility in support of cargo, transport, firefighting, and oil and gas. The majority of these are Model 206 variants (537), followed by Model 412s (195) and Model 212s (153). Since 2010, Bell has delivered 87 aircraft into the region and it clearly is aiming to do more.
In 2012, Bell opened a new joint service center in the Singapore Seletar Aerospace Park with sister company Cessna Aircraft (both are owned by Textron). Bell CEO John Garrison said that the 160,500-sq-ft building and 77,000-sq-ft ramp are part of Bell’s concerted efforts to provide “exceptional support to our current and future customers in this important growth region.” The new facility includes hangars, a paint booth, warehouse, overhaul and maintenance shops, as well as offices. Bell plans to add a training facility to the complex.
Late last year the company announced that it had expanded capabilities offered by the Singapore center to include Bell 412 field maintenance training and electrical and automatic flight control systems (AFCS) as well as Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) approved maintenance and customization on the 206, 407, and 429 light twin–aircraft that were or are made at Bell Canada. “The CAAS approval offers enhanced service offerings to our customers and strengthens our presence in the region,” said Michael Reagan, Bell director of global services. “With this qualification we can now perform customization work on all in-production Bell Helicopter aircraft using this bilateral agreement with Transport Canada.”
Services that Bell Singapore can now provide on these helicopters include: scheduled or unscheduled maintenance; inspections, repair or recertification; component replacement; incorporating airworthiness directives, service bulletins or technical bulletins; incorporating supplementary type certificates or servicing instructions; and helicopter re-assembly or disassembly. With this most recent CAAS approval, Bell Singapore is now authorized to perform inspection, testing, repair and modification for current production Bell aircraft under the regulatory authorities of Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Bell plans to add more approved service capabilities throughout the region this year.