Beset with stagnant civil sales, a stymied multi-billion-dollar, investment-intensive defense project and a dearth of new programs in the pipeline, Bell Helicopter Textron has decided, like the beer world, to take a chance on a “lite” product, in this case a new lightweight, lower-cost turbine single helicopter.
Bell Helicopter chairman and chief executive John Murphey is in the sort of corporate hotseat many top executives yearn for: command of a major corporation at the precise moment that corporation is in, if not the fight of its life, certainly some very tough times indeed.
Bowing to demands from an even more security-conscious aviation community, Bell Helicopter is offering the first FAA-approved night-vision-goggle (NVG) training program aimed specifically at commercial helicopter operators.
When the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., opened last month to tell the tale of news gathering, publication and broadcast and to champion the concept of a free press, it did not ignore the role of aviation in the news-gathering and -broadcasting process.
Despite the fatal loss of one of its prototypes, Agusta and program partner Bell Helicopter are confident of the success of the AB139 and recently celebrated the flight of the first production-configured unit. A second production model is in the final stages of assembly and work has begun on a third.
Cessna Aircraft and Bell Helicopter parent company Textron today reported revenues of $3.5 billion in the first quarter, up from $3 billion in the same period last year. According to Textron chairman, president and CEO Lewis Campbell, global demand is driving growth at the company, offsetting the effects of a softer U.S. economy.
Gary Hay, who started working on Cessna’s manufacturing floor in 1966 and worked his way up to CEO just over two years ago, retired unexpectedly from the Wichita-based airframer on June 30. Russ Meyer, president of Textron’s new aircraft sector and who was Cessna CEO and chairman from 1975 to 2000, announced he would serve as interim chairman and CEO until a permanent replacement is appointed.
Bell/Agusta Aerospace engineers working on the BA609 Tiltrotor have stepped up their certification efforts, now working with the FAA and the EASA (via Italian authorities) and planning on more than 100 hours of flight testing this year. That goal represents a major acceleration; the company has logged only 300 hours since 2003. However, the first flight of the third prototype has been delayed again.
Mike Redenbaugh took over the CEO’s office at Bell Helicopter’s Fort Worth, Texas headquarters in May and now faces some formidable challenges–including getting the military V-22 tiltrotor program on track and completing certification of the BA609 civil tiltrotor in cooperation with partner Agusta Aerospace of Italy.
Bell Helicopter Textron announced the recent deliveries of three helicopters–a Bell 412, 206B-3 and 430–to customers in vastly different industries and took orders for two 407s in September. The Fort Worth, Texas-based manufacturer also inked a deal at the NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla., last month on the sale of an AB139, jointly developed with AgustaWestland.