Bell Helicopter has announced it will install the final assembly line for the new five-seat short light single (SLS) at Lafayette Regional Airport (LFT) in Louisiana. There, the company plans to create 115 direct jobs and an estimated 136 indirect jobs. The investment in equipment and tooling is valued at $11.4 million.
|Graphic of the Bell short light
“We considered several sites for this new facility, and Louisiana’s proposal demonstrated the state’s commitment to economic development,” noted Bell President & CEO John Garrison in a statement. Under a scheme arranged with Louisiana Economic Development (LED), Bell will lease space for its SLS assembly operation in a new 82,300-square-foot, $26.3-million hangar. The facility will be funded by the State of Louisiana and owned by the airport.
Construction will begin in the first half of 2014. Bell intends to start hiring employees for the new facility by 2015 and production is scheduled to start by 2016.
Bell and LED began discussions in July. To secure the project, the State of Louisiana offered a “competitive incentive package” that includes performance-based grants of $4.0 million for lease support, $3.8 million for infrastructure and equipment and $200,000 to reimburse relocation expenses.
Garrison in November confirmed the prototype is to fly in late 2014. For the “short light single,” he promised a new name will be revealed by the Heli-Expo show in February 2014. The program is Bell’s bid to re-enter the light single market with a new product, which will compete with the Robinson R66 and the Eurocopter EC120.
The SLS will be powered by a Turbomeca turboshaft – a first for a Bell aircraft. It will offer a load capacity of 1,500 lbs, a maximum speed of 125 knots and a range of 360 nm.