While praising the efforts of his predecessor, Bell Helicopter’s freshly appointed CEO has been offering his own vision of the future for the beleaguered rotorcraft giant. What emerges is a daring strategy that essentially bets the company on the success of the embattled V-22 Osprey military tiltrotor and, later, the BA609 civil tiltrotor programs.
In a surprise move at last month’s Paris Air Show, the much anticipated Bell/Agusta Aerospace AB139 received its type certification from the Italian aeronautical authority, ENAC, which also approved IFR operations.
A VTOL UAV is displayed in model form by American Dynamics Flight Systems (Hall2 Stand 20). Unusual in its use of a single PW200 to power tilting ducted fans and provide some pure jet propulsion, the AD-150 is currently undergoing tests that are expected to lead to first flight early next year. a
Eurocopter has successfully flown a production-capable testbed helicopter using fly-by-light systems to drive its primary flight controls. Known under the awkward cognomen of the active control technology demonstrator/flying helicopter simulator (ACT/FHS), the remarkable rotorcraft is a Eurocopter EC 135 airframe fitted with the new laser light control system.
Bell Helicopter (Chalet L3-7) here in a press conference yesterday strongly hinted the company is about to transfer more work to partner AgustaWestland in the protracted BA609 Tiltrotor program. “We are looking for the most efficient way to get the aircraft certified and we’ll possibly find some efficiencies in Italy,” Mike Blake, executive v-p for customer solutions, said. While one test aircraft resides
Bell Helicopter will likely confirm another one-year delay for the civil BA609 Tiltrotor program during a press conference here today, judging by a new development schedule released by program partner AgustaWestland. This year, the company expects a postponement of certification from “2010/2011,” as announced in June 2007, to “2011/early 2012.”
A Bell Helicopter spokesman denied speculation that the company plans to pull the plug on the Bell/Agusta BA609 civil tiltrotor or sell its entire stake in the program to Italian development partner AgustaWestland. Speculation about Bell’s future in the program escalated earlier this week after Bell CEO Richard Millman told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “We designed the 609 for a new U.S.
The fortunes of the Bell/Agusta BA609 are closely linked to those of the U.S. Marines’ MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor transport, still grounded following a pair of well-publicized fatal accidents and even more sensational charges of records falsification and related wrongdoing by senior Marine program managers.
Despite the fact that the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67A engines are installed on the first BA609 prototype tiltrotor, Bell is letting the development schedule of that aircraft slip, with its previously planned first flight moving from last month to sometime this summer. Assembly of a further pair of prototypes has also slowed dramatically.
Coping with a slowdown in both commercial and military sales, Bell Helicopter has laid off 45 more nonunion employees, bringing to 800 the number of jobs it has eliminated in its Dallas/Fort Worth and Mirabel, Quebec plants since September. While the layoffs have been taken from nearly every division of the company, by far the largest percentage has come from manufacturing operations.