The V-280 tiltrotor is nearing its first flight. Photo courtesy of Bell Helicopter
The downturn in the commercial rotorcraft market has brought layoffs and workforce realignments across the industry globally, with Bristow Group and Caverton Helicopters in Nigeria, GKN Aerospace in the U.K. and Airbus Helicopters in France, to name a few. Bell Helicopter has not been immune, as President and CEO Mitch Snyder explained in his address at the Fort Worth, Texas, Chamber of Commerce luncheon Dec. 6. In five years, the Textron subsidiary reduced its workforce by more than 5,000 employees, said Snyder.
Snyder said Industry-wide commercial sales will be down this year, approximately 50% from 2013. Bell had its fair share of setbacks this year, including July’s fatal flight test crash of a Bell 525 prototype. But Snyder said the company plans to combat misfortune by continuing investments for future platforms, relationships with policy leaders and innovation.
Bell 505 certification is nearing, he said, and the production line is ready. The V-280 tiltrotor, which is at 80% completion, is on track for its first flight in September 2017 at Bell’s Amarillo, Texas, facility.
“And while I’m not going to provide any details now,” said Snyder, “we’re also laying the groundwork for new commercial aircraft beyond the 505 and 525 to modernize our entire product line.”
At the core of Snyder’s remarks was Fort Worth, where Bell has been since relocating from Buffalo, New York, in 1951. It’s the company’s 65th year there, and more than half of Bell employees are local.