Bell Helicopter and its Brazilian dealer TAM will be displaying a light twin Bell model 429 and a new light single model 505 in their booth at this year’s LABACE. TAM also plans to offer flight demonstrations with other Bell helicopters during the show.
The 505 has done particularly well in Brazil, according to Bell managing director for Latin America Nick Peffer, with 12 of the models already delivered in country and another 12 on the way within the next six to 12 months. Peffer said the aircraft’s price point, performance, and versatility make it a good seller in Brazil. “The flat floor gives the 505 a lot of utility,” he noted, adding that the aircraft can be quickly reconfigured from cargo for use in personnel transport or law enforcement or as an air ambulance. “The 505 has been a great source of pride for us throughout Latin America. We’re seeing all sorts of market segments pop up for the aircraft.”
Peffer said many Latin American customers want multi-mission helicopters. “They want the aircraft to do everything and the 505 is very versatile.” Accordingly, some have ordered 505s with quick-change medical litter kits that offer some of the same capability as a purpose-built EMS interior, with features that include portable oxygen and a portable medical bag. Peffer said the 505’s parapublic, multi-mission capability has been demonstrated by several customers such as the Sacramento (California) Police in the U.S.
Peffer is optimistic about the Brazilian market following several years of a difficult local economy. “Oil and gas obviously has been depressed for a quite a while [worldwide], and Brazil is no different in that respect,” he said, adding that he thinks the market is poised for a recovery. Bell also has sold more helicopters throughout the region including Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Argentina, where Bell announced the appointment of a new service center recently. “Bell is strong throughout Latin America and we have a good [support] infrastructure in place,” Peffer said, adding that the company has sold a good mix of models including 407s, 429s, and 412s into the region, particularly 407s and 429s to parapublic customers.
Peffer said Bell is continuing to expand its service and training options to customers in the region, including enrolling more in the company’s Customer Advantage Program (CAPS) parts program, launching plans to expand its Miami service center, and attracting more customers to Bell’s Valencia (Spain) training center. The company is also continuing programs at the Bell Training Academy in Fort Worth, Texas, for both pilots and technicians and providing instructors in country at customer request.
More Latin American customers are headed to Valencia for 429 simulator training, in part due to language familiarity (Spanish), Peffer said. “We’re continuing to expand our capabilities in Latin America. Bell is always looking at ways to expand and improve our level of service in the region,” he noted. While some customers have their helicopters completed at Bell facilities in Mirabel, Canada or Piney Flats, Tennessee, some are also opting to have the work done closer to home, Peffer said. "It really is a mix. It just depends on the capabilities in country and what the end user wants to do. We want them to receive the aircraft they want, an aircraft that exceeds their needs.”