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Bell has seen a “bounce” in its commercial market thanks in large part to strong demand for the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X.
According to CEO Mitch Snyder, Bell saw a 44 per cent increase in commercial deliveries from 2017 to 2018 — from 132 to 192. Of those deliveries, 116 were the Bell 505 short light single.
“It’s performing well, and [with] the amount of deliveries we’re making, the customers love it,” Snyder told reporters in a conference call on March 1, adding that the 505 fleet has now surpassed 13,000 flight hours.
Bell recently delivered the first 505 in a law enforcement configuration to the Sacramento Police Department, and will soon announce delivery of a similarly equipped 505 to another California law enforcement agency, the Stockton Police Department.
Meanwhile, the 505 has also moved into the electronic news gathering segment with Helicopters Incorporated.
Snyder said that the company is also seeing significant demand for its “long light single,” the Bell 407, reflecting growth in the helicopter emergency medical services market and an increase in near-shore flying in the Gulf of Mexico.
Although Snyder declined to forecast deliveries for 2019, he said that prospects are “looking pretty good” for the 505, as well as for the 407 and the Bell 429 light twin.
“We’re still seeing a strong demand for those particular aircraft, which shows us that the market for us is still increasing,” he said.
Meanwhile, Snyder said that the Bell 525 Relentless program continues to progress toward certification by the end of this year.
“The team has been working very hard on the flight test activity; we’ve got now over 1,300 hours of rotor turn time and 1,000 hours of flight time,” he said.
“Ships two and three are up in Yellowknife, N.W.T., operating in conditions like minus 40 degrees below — so, very cold conditions. We’ve also had another aircraft in Rome, N.Y., in heavy snow conditions and it performed fantastically there.”
He added that another aircraft is currently doing additional ground testing in Amarillo, Texas, and is expected to join the flight test program soon.
“We plan to have all four aircraft in flight for the bulk of this year,” he said.
Snyder didn’t share any reveals during his call in advance of HAI Heli-Expo 2019. However, he said, “I can tell you we do have a lot of new things in the works. And when I say new things, it’s not only new clean sheets but it’s also ways to upgrade other aircraft that we have in production today. . . .
“We have other things in the works, and stay tuned, we’ll show them when we are ready.”