Bell Helicopter Textron last month announced plans to lay off 270 workers at its Fort Worth-area plants. The job cuts will affect both union-represented hourly workers and salaried employees. A spokesman for the rotorcraft builder said further cutbacks were possible as the company reevaluated its position in the slumping world helicopter market and as the effects of investigations and slowdowns in the U.S.
Recent orders for some 45 aircraft in the offshore transport configuration have confirmed a rising demand for the AW139 in the Middle East. Here at the Dubai Air Show, AgustaWestland (Stand C310) is exhibiting both the offshore transport and VIP versions of the AW139 as well as a VIP A109 Grand.
Although Turkey announced its selection of the AgustaWestland A129 for its tactical reconnaissance and attack helicopter program in March, it took until September 7 to finalize a contract whereby the Anglo-Italian rotorcraft maker will participate in Turkey’s ATAK program in partnership with prime contractor Tusas Aerospace Industries (TAI).
Brazilian-based Synergy Aerospace has ordered 12 AgustaWestland helicopters, including AW109 Powers, Grands and AW139s. They will be used in corporate, executive and offshore transport. The contract is part of a 2006 framework agreement. Meanwhile, Spanish marine safety agency Sasemar has ordered two additional AW139s in search-and-rescue (SAR) configuration, to be used for SAR and water-pollution detection.
The FAA issued a request for comment on proposed airworthiness standards for certification of the Bell/Agusta BA609–“a multi-turbine-engine powered-lift category, tiltrotor-class aircraft”–under FAR 21.17(b), which specifies applicable regulations for special classes of aircraft for which airworthiness standards do not yet exist.
Successfully completing phase one of what will be the world’s first civil certification of a tiltrotor aircraft, veteran convertiplane pilot Roy Hopkins recently found himself in possession of something he hadn’t had much of in the last few months: spare time.
Agusta officials have revealed they are currently negotiating with Bell to increase the share the Italian manufacturer holds in the BA609 tiltrotor program. Currently at 25 percent for Agusta and 75 percent for Bell, the workshare may eventually become “close to 50/50,” Agusta CEO Amedeo Caporaletti said.
Before suffering a fatal crash April 22, the joint Bell/Agusta AB139 helicopter was enjoying a notably trouble-free development program that was at times well ahead of its original development schedule, and being warmly received by its target markets, both rarities in commercial aviation today and nearly miracles in the helicopter business.
Displaying the sort of brand loyalty most manufacturers only wish for, the New York City Police Department aviation unit has taken delivery of yet another Bell helicopter, a brand-new 412EP. This addition brings the NYPD’s fleet total to six helicopters, all of them Bell products.
The UK government is investigating GKN’s $1.79 billion (£1 billion) sale of its 50-percent stake in helicopter company AgustaWestland on grounds of national security. Government trade and industry minister Helen Smith has issued a European Intervention Notice under the 2002 Enterprise Act.