Bell posted essentially flat revenues of $783 million for the third quarter, inched up from $770 million from the year-ago period. Segment profit for the third quarter was $110 million, down $3 million from the same period last year. For the first nine months of 2019, Bell revenues were down slightly to $2.293 billion, compared with $2.353 billion from the year-ago period.
Deliveries of civil helicopters decreased to 42, compared with 43 from the year-ago period. Although, deliveries of the model 407 single and 429 light twin were ahead of last year’s rate. Military revenues, roughly two-thirds of Bell’s business, declined during the third quarter. Bell maintained a backlog of $5.6 billion.
Milestones during the quarter included IFR certification of the Bell 407 GXi, a $620 million foreign military sale of eight UH-1Y utility and four Bell AH1- Z attack helicopters to the Czech Republic, and the unveiling of the Bell 360 Invictus, the company’s entry in the U.S. Army’s future attack reconnaissance aircraft (FARA) competition. On a conference call with analysts this week, Bell parent company chairman, Textron's Scott Donnelly, said he expects the Pentagon to make a FARA down select decision by March. Donnelly said the reaction to the 360 has been “very positive.”
“The way that you get the speed and the agility from this craft leverages a huge investment that we made obviously on the [Bell civil] 525 [super-medium twin, currently in flight test] front and scaling that rotor technology and fly-by-wire technology into the Invictus. So their performance numbers meet or exceed the customer's requirements. And we think we can do it very cost-effectively,” he said.
Donnelly said he is encouraged by a “significant uptick” in aftermarket support revenues for both the Bell-Boeing V-22 tiltrotor and the Bell H1 military aircraft and sees more opportunities for foreign military sales. He also pointed out that deliveries of the Navy CMV-22B, a variant of the V-22 designed for carrier onboard delivery, are beginning to spool up. The Navy has ordered 42 of the aircraft. Prospects also appear promising for Bell’s V-280 joint multi-role technology demonstration (JMR-TD) aircraft as the Army appears to be moving the future vertical lift (FVL) program significantly “to the left,” Donnelly said, with wanting production aircraft for that program by 2030 rather than the previous target of 2035. He said he saw the potential for FVL “to accelerate further.”
“I think our V-280 is in a great position. Obviously, that's an Army decision that's got to be made. But I think we have clear line-of-sight to compete and hopefully win what would be a very large program,” Donnelly said. FVL could trigger a demand for up to 4,000 new aircraft.