Bell Helicopter is coming to Paris 2013 as the jewel in parent company Textron's crown. A far cry from even just a few years ago when the helicopter market was in the doldrums, business jets were all the rage and Cessna was the prize in the multi-industrial's portfolio.
Now, according to analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Bell accounts for 65% of Textron's total backlog versus Cessna with just 9%. Textron Systems, which makes precision weapons, armored vehicles and unmanned aircraft, accounts for the other 26%.
The turnaround is down to the rebound in the commercial-helicopter market and two healthy military-rotorcraft programs, the Bell AH-1Z/UH-1Y and Bell Boeing V-22 tiltrotor. The military aircraft won't be at the show - although both programs are hotly pursuing export orders to sustain production - but Bell will demo the commercial 407GX turbine single and 429 light turbine twin.
Photo: Bell Helicopter
While the 407GX and an Air Zermatt EMS-configured 429 provide demo flights throughout the show, Bell will display the 407GT armed version (above) of the GX on its stand. The company will also feature a flight simulator for its 525 Relentless and provide a progress update on the new medium twin, set to fly in 2014. And look for more detail on the V-280 Valor "third-generation" tiltrotor demonstrator Bell plans to build for the US Army.
It is hard to underplay the significance of the 525 to Bell's plans to grow its commercial business by getting back into the lucrative offshore-support market with a new medium twin. As the Merrill Lynch report points outs, light helos accounted for 56% of Bell's deliveries last quarter. From 2015, having a medium twin will dramatically boost commercial revenues at a time when H-1 and V-22 production could be coming down.