Bell Helicopters’s new twin engine offering, the Bell 429, will not be heading to Australia in the near future for a demonstration tour despite this month making its first appearance in the region at the 2010 Singapore Airshow.
“We were hoping for a 429 tour in the first half of this year but unfortunately that will not happen,” said Australian Bell distributor Hawker Pacific’s Peter Crook. “There are some 429 opportunities that a demonstration tour would assist.”
The 429 is a contender for the ADF’s project Air 9000 phase 7 contact which is due for second pass approval between 2011 and 2013.
Following the airshow the 429 flew to India for demonstration flights there before travelling to Japan where Mitsui Bussan Aerospace (Japan’s sole authorised Bell dealer) will introduce the helicopter to customers from May through to September.
Bell has been focusing on military orders and deliveries, which accounted for 39 per cent of its US$2.8bn (A$3.6bn) 2009 revenue, as orders for its civil range fell considerably due to global financial pressures. But Bell’s new president and CEO, John Garrison, said he will not ignore the commercial helicopter business.
“We’re confident we’ll be able to grow market share with that (429) helicopter,” said Garrison while addressing a conference in New York hosted by Bell’s parent company, Textron, in early February. “Customer response to the 429 has been extremely strong since its certification by Canadian, US and European authorities in mid 2009. We’re confident that as more customers get to experience its performance and unique features firsthand, they will want the 429 in their operations.”
Bell holds over 300 letters of intent (not firm orders) for the 429 and delivered its first two production helicopters during the last half of 2009 to US operator Air Methods and to Bell affiliate Edwards & Associates for operation by an unnamed Japanese aero medical operator. Air Methods is due to commence services with an EMS configured 429 on contract with Mercy One in Des Moines, Iowa, in the coming weeks.