Bell Helicopter’s new CEO, Mitch Snyder, has declared innovation as his top priority, as the company works to reposition itself in the challenging rotary-wing market.

While Bell’s attendance at this year’s Farnborough has been overshadowed by the fatal loss of its first prototype Model 525 in Texas on July 6, Snyder has already been making his mark with investment in innovative technologies and a series of changes he says will help consolidate and preserve the company’s manufacturing capability.

As part of this process was Bell’s surprising decision to move production of its new Model 505 Jet Ranger X light helicopter away from purpose-built facilities in Lafayette, Louisiana, to its Mirabel, Montreal, plant.

“When we launched Louisiana, Mirabel was full, and we needed to grow on the commercial side of the business…we needed expansion,” Snyder said in an interview with ShowNews in late June.

“When you see the market right now…we needed to consolidate…and in terms of consolidation it made the most sense to move the 505 back to Canada, take everything we were going to do in Louisiana – the flow layout, the IT infrastructure – and create a factory in a factory, and do it with an experienced workforce that knows how to build helicopters and have done it for a long time.”

The Lafayette facility will now build cabins for the 525.

Snyder says the process of moving 505 production equipment to Canada has already begun and the Mirabel factory is now being laid out. The company’s plan is to get the Model 505 certified later this year and make first deliveries before the end of the year.

“We are in the process of converting letters of intent into orders,” says Snyder,

“It is looking very promising, even with the market depressed right now.”

Until the accident involving the first prototype, which killed both test pilots, the development of the fly-by-wire 525 had been making strong progress, with the three prototypes having flown nearly 300 hours. Following the crash, the company decided to halt active promotion of the Model 525 here at Farnborough, where it had been due to promote a VIP interior for the aircraft.

The interior mockup will remain on display in the Textron chalet area, but Snyder himself has decided not to attend the show, the company said he would “remain close to support the families and the investigation.”

Meanwhile, the company is working on key military programs including the H-1 and V-22 Osprey. The company will begin building the first AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters for the Pakistani Army in 2017 ready for delivery in the second half of 2018 as part of a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) contract. The company is hoping that this success will continue in Europe as it pushes the “Zulu” in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Snyder says the Czech Republic has already shown significant interest in the UH-1Y Venom and that Bell has signed memorandums of understanding with Czech industry; additionally, he says, Prague is keen have a “common platform” with “similar part numbers” to benefit from a shorter logistics train for both its future utility and attack helicopters.

The company is working to firm up a third multiyear contract for the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor covering the purchase of at least 66 aircraft, including 44 CMV-22B Ospreys for the carrier onboard delivery mission as well as potential orders from the U.S. Air Force and FMS customers.

“We are working with NAVAIR on quantities and timelines, and [will] be on contract by the end of next year so we can take production through 2024,” Snyder says.

The company has also been contracted to take forward development of an aerial refueling capability for the V-22 to support F-35 Joint Strike Fighter operations.

Also debuting at Farnborough is the mockup of the V-280 Valor, Bell’s proposed tiltrotor solution to the U.S. Army’s Future Vertical Lift and Joint Multi-Role requirements. But Snyder has further ambitions to broaden the company’s technological capabilities with investments in hybrid-electric powerplants, which make for autonomous and environmentally friendly flight, particularly in terms of noise. Materials and vehicle health management are other areas of study, he says.

New products are also in the pipeline.

“Once we finish 505 and 525, we are going into the next product,” says Snyder.

“We have finished the market analysis, we know where we want to go with it.… It’s going to look really cool, whatever it is.”