Rotor & Wing International
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Bell Has Big Ambitions in Europe

Despite a slow market, Bell Helicopter (Stand 12F30) sees opportunities in many sectors.

Despite a slow market, Bell Helicopter (Stand 12F30) sees opportunities in many sectors.

On display will be the Bell 429, its “best-selling helicopter in the region,” according to Jakub Hoda, Bell’s managing director for Europe and Russia. The twin helicopter is seeing successes in the air medical and parapublic markets. Among the 260 429s in operation around the world, 70 are flying in Europe, and new products are coming.

The light single Bell 505, the new Jet Ranger, has secured more than 350 letters of intent worldwide; 60 from Europe.

Hoda points to the aircraft’s technical advantages as being the only single in its class with a FADEC glass cockpit.

As of early printing, the Bell 505 was expecting Transport Canada certification in time for the show, with deliveries before the year’s end. FAA certification should follow in early 2017, then EASA in the first quarter of 2017.

Hoda estimates the new super-medium twin Bell 525 is “very well positioned in the oil and gas market.” Following the July 6 crash of the 525 prototype, flight test activities have been suspended pending the investigation. Bell is unable to say how it may affect certification progress.

With oil and gas expected to rebound “within 2 to 3 years,” Hoda believes the aircraft will be there for recovery.

Since 2010, Bell has been investing in the region after a long period focusing on the North American market. “We realized again that Europe is the second helicopter market in the world,” said Hoda. It started in 2010 with the acquisition of facilities in Prague were renamed Bell Helicopter Prague, headquarters for Bell’s sales operations in Europe.

Investments have also been made in Spain, with the only Bell training facility outside the U.S. Bell Helicopter Valencia should receive a 429 flight simulator by the end of the year.

Then there is a supply center in Amsterdam. Hiring people for customer support as well as sales team is also a priority, with a number of sales offices opened “directly with the customer’s location.” Hoda estimates that around 20% of Bell’s commercial business comes from Europe. He believes the company had a market share around 20% there last year, with further growth coming thanks to the new aircraft’s backlog. R&WI