AgustaWestland is buying out Bell’s stake in the BA609 civil tiltrotor program from Bell Helicopters. Financial terms of the deal, announced by AgustaWestland’s new CEO Bruno Spagnolini and Bell CEO John Garrison here at the Paris Air Show yesterday, were not disclosed.
AgustaWestland is purchasing full ownership of the BA609 civil tiltrotor program from Bell Helicopter, the companies announced today at the Paris Air Show. As a result, the aircraft now has been redesignated as the AW609. Under the proposed agreement, subject to regulatory approval, Bell will continue to provide engineering, program management services and key component manufacture on the AW609. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
At this year’s Heli-Expo, Bell CEO John Garrison was adamant that the company could afford a new civil helicopter program. “Capital-wise we have the ability to invest in new platform development. That is not a constraint. We just have to pick and choose,” Garrison said, declining to identify the market sectors Bell was considering. “The business has the ability to fund it.”
Despite relatively flat year-over-year commercial sales, Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison said the company could easily fund a new, clean-sheet-of-paper commercial helicopter program.
AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppi Orsi had reason to smile at Saturday night’s press conference, pointing out that the Milan-based manufacturer delivered 111 commercial helicopters in 2010 and the commercial order book showed an increase of 56 percent when compared with 2009.
The European Commission ruled that AgustaWestland must repay a €25 million military subsidy it received from the Italian government in 1998 for the AW139 medium helicopter and BA609 tiltrotor programs as they are civil, not military, aircraft.
This year’s Farnborough airshow came and went without the long-anticipated announcement by either Bell or AgustaWestland as to what would become of their joint program, now well into its second decade, to develop a civil tiltrotor. Without offering specifics, a Bell spokeswoman told AIN last month, “Bell/Agusta Aerospace is committed to certifying and delivering the world’s first commercial tiltrotor.”
AgustaWestland’s Deliveries Up, Orders Down for Last Year
AgustaWestland parent company Finmeccanica on Friday disclosed its 2009 results, showing increased deliveries but slashed orders for the Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer. Revenues grew by 15 percent to €3.48 billion (about $4.7 billion) in 2009. This was influenced by robust deliveries of AW139 medium and AW101 heavy helicopters, as well as product support results, the company said. The pre-tax earning margin stagnated at 10.7 percent.
Bell Helicopter has announced senior staff changes and the integration of its XworX research and development center into its engineering department, at a time when questions persist about the company’s future role in the BA609 civil tiltrotor program and the launch customer for the 429 light twin helicopter seeks to back out of its purchase agreement.