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Heard in the Hallways: Only the Penitent Contractor Shall Pass

By Rotor & Wing Staff | July 1, 2007

One wonders how long the uniform of the day at Bell Helicopter will remain sackcloth and ashes.

The Fort Worth, Texas manufacturer seems to have convinced the U.S. Army to stick with it on the ARH-70A Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, despite a proposal that would push fielding the first aircraft back even further, to mid-2010, from an original goal of September 2008.

About the ARH problems, top Bell officials have been penitent. At May’s Army Aviation Assn. of America annual gathering in Atlanta, they unanimously made clear that all the program’s problems were their responsibility, and that the Army was right in every requirements revision and demand made since the contract award in June 2005.

Then came the 47th Paris Air Show, where Bell could be found — if you happened on parent Textron’s exhibit or visited Cessna or E-Z-GO, the Textron-owned golf cart maker. Cessna had its biggest aircraft display in years. But there was hardly a Bell aircraft to be found. The company didn’t even have a mock-up at Le Bourget.

That was in stark contrast to the Farnborough Air Show last year, where Bell had an exhibit and chalet combination that, in fact, made it "king of the hill," perched as it was on the rise that dominated the main entrance to Farnborough. But that was under former Bell chief Mike "Red" Redenbaugh. His replacement, Richard Millman, is all about bringing a new discipline to the operation, even a stoic one. Hence, the focus on the development and delivery of aircraft, not their display.

There was one aircraft with a Bell label at Le Bourget. The No. 2 prototype of the BA609, built by the partnership Bell/Agusta Aerospace Co. and flown to Paris from Italy by AgustaWestland, made its Le Bourget debut this year.

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