Bell Helicopter announced last month it is relocating its commercial business unit’s worldwide sales and marketing offices and the Bell Training Academy to the facility formerly occupied by Galaxy Aerospace/Gulfstream at Fort Worth Alliance Airport, Texas.
AgustaWestland last month announced that its sales in India are growing, with seven deliveries last year (not all new rotorcraft), four planned this year and another 12 over the 2008-2009 period. In addition, Hindustan Construction has ordered a second Bell/Agusta BA609 Tiltrotor. Hong-Kong-based Sharp Ocean is now AgustaWestland’s distributor for India, Sri Lanka and The Maldives.
Bell Helicopter yesterday revealed it has discontinued the 417 development project, announced with much fanfare at last year’s Heli-Expo, where the company took deposits for 136 copies of the aircraft, which was based on the popular 407. Another point of discussion at this year’s event, held in Orlando, Fla., was Bell’s recent shakeup at the top.
You might call Heli-Expo 2005 a triumph for Bell/Agusta Aerospace and particularly for the AB139. In the period covering European certification in 2003, FAA IFR authorization in December and last month’s show, eight AB139s have been handed over to customers, for use in roles ranging from VIP to air ambulance and a wide range of environments. Twenty-six more were ordered in Anaheim last month.
AgustaWestland is acquiring Bell Helicopter’s 25-percent stake in the AB139 twin-turbine helicopter program. “Consolidating the ownership of the AB139 will provide a single face to the customer, leading to increased sales and greater customer satisfaction related to follow-on support services,” said AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppi Orsi.
The second prototype of the Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor has been flying in airplane mode since November 9 (see AIN, December 2006, page 3). It operates from Cameri, an Italian Air Force airfield near Milan.
After a hiatus of more than two years, the Bell/Agusta BA609 civil tiltrotor returned to flight status on June 3, flying for 1.3 hours. The aircraft, S/N001 and the only BA609 to fly to date, last flew on April 14, 2003, after accumulating 14 flight hours from the time of its first flight on March 7 of that year. It also logged some 41 ground test hours.
Major helicopter manufacturers here in Paris are eagerly awaiting the expected release next month of a U.S. Air Force request for proposal (RFP) for a combat search-and-rescue helicopter to replace some 100 aging Sikorsky HH-60Gs. The RFP is expected to request 141 personnel recovery vehicles (PRVs) at a value of about $10 billion, with initial entry into service in 2011.
Bell Helicopter has a contract to supply 45 Eagle Eye unmanned tiltrotors to the U.S. Coast Guard beginning in 2007 but with its own funds is already building what it calls a “risk-reduction prototype” and plans to have it flying by this fall. A full-scale mockup of the Eagle Eye is on static display on the ramp side of Bell’s Paris Air Show chalet (A378).
United Technologies subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft announced at the American Helicopter Society annual forum earlier this month that it plans to build an experimental helicopter using a coaxial main rotor system that it says will achieve cruise speeds well above that of conventional helicopters. Coaxial helicopters have two counterrotating rotors on the same vertical axis.