Bell 505 Jet Ranger X. (Photo by Bell Flight)
Based on an increase in deliveries in 2018, Bell sees a continued upswing in the light single and twin-engine helicopter markets in 2019, according to Chief Executive Mitch Snyder.
Sales of the 407 and 505 light singles buoyed the company in 2018 and the twin-engine 429 is also seeing increased market interest, Snyder said during a March 1 conference call with reporters.
“We’ve actually seen a little bounce in the commercial market,” Snyder said. “Looking into 2019, we’re still seeing a strong demand for those particular aircraft, which shows us that the market for us is still increasing.”
Between 2017 and 2018, the company saw a 44 percent increase in commercial aircraft deliveries from 132 aircraft to 192 last year. A big part of that was delivery of 116 505 light singles.
“If you look at the vehicles, it’s really that short, light single and long, light single, our 505 and 407 and here in the next year, we’ll see some increase in our 429s as well,” he said. “It’s really the segments that we’re operating in and Bell is delivering our products as we’ve seen that bounce in the market. We’ve seen growth in the emergency medical services as well as in law enforcement.”
A slight uptick in oil-and-gas operation, particularly near-shore flying, has boosted demand for the Bell 407 in the Gulf of Mexico, Snyder said.
The first 505 configured for law enforcement missions was delivered in 2018 and a second police variant will soon deliver, Snyder said. A Houston-based operator will soon take delivery of the first 505 configured for electronic newsgathering, he said.
“We’re seeing strong interest in the 505 and now it’s expanding into law enforcement and military training missions,” he said.
On the larger side of the house, the 525 relentless is on track for certification in 2019, Snyder said. The fleet of four test aircraft has accumulated 1,300 hours or total rotor turn time and 1,000 hours of flight time. Three aircraft are currently in flight test: Aircraft 2, 3 and 14.
Aircraft 15, which has a production-representative interior, is finished and in Amarillo doing ground testing. It should fly soon, Snyder said.
“It’s going to be flying pretty quick,” he said. “We plan to have all four aircraft in flight for the bulk of this year.”