Bell Helicopter Breaks Ground on New lafayette aircraft assembly facility

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Groundbreaking advances the company towards production and delivery of its eagerly-awaited Bell 505 aircraft.

Lafayette, Louisiana – August 27, 2014 - Bell Helicopter commenced construction of its facility in Lafayette, LA, where the company will assemble its newest commercial helicopter, the Bell 505 Jet Ranger XTM. Governor Bobby Jindal, Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel and others joined Bell Helicopter’s President and CEO, John Garrison, to commemorate the occasion today at the Lafayette Regional Airport.

The new 82,300-square-foot, $26.3 million hangar facility will be built on a 14.5-acre site. Bell Helicopter will lease the facility from the Lafayette Regional Airport.  The project is funded by the State of Louisiana and the company plans to invest $11.4 million in equipment and tooling. Bell Helicopter expects to begin hiring employees for the new facility by 2015, and assembly operations are expected to start by 2016 following certification of the facility and the aircraft. The facility is expected to create 115 new jobs in Lafayette, and LED estimates the aerospace project will result in an additional 136 jobs, for a total of more than 250 new jobs in Acadiana.

 “We are delighted that construction of a world-class aerospace assembly facility is underway in Lafayette and that skilled Louisiana workers will be producing the standard-bearer for a vital segment of the commercial aviation market,” said Governor Jindal. “Companies like Bell Helicopter are recognizing what Louisiana offers the top employers of the future: a best-in-the-nation business climate, an outstanding workforce, a tremendous infrastructure and a quality of life like no other. For those reasons, Louisiana is becoming the investment state of choice for expanding businesses from around the world. We are excited that hundreds of Louisiana families will benefit from the advanced aerospace assembly operations that will take place here in Lafayette.”

To date, Bell Helicopter has received more than 200 purchase agreements for the Bell 505. The five-seat, single-engine, turbine helicopter leverages Bell Helicopter’s proven technology and nearly half a century of experience defining the short light single market with the original Bell JetRanger.

“We have received tremendous interest and support from our customers for this aircraft, confirming it was absolutely the right product for the market at this time,” said John Garrison. “The groundbreaking of the Bell Helicopter facility in Lafayette is a significant milestone toward aircraft production and delivery. The support provided by the state of Louisiana as well as their exceptional workforce training programs will help ensure the facility and our future workforce are operationally ready and able to quickly ramp up to meet our production demands.”

Work on the new Lafayette facility began Monday, Aug. 18 and the company is currently on schedule to meet the June 1, 2015, deadline for certificate of occupancy.

“We have a great relationship with the municipalities at the airport, and we are engaging people early on in the process to avoid any potential roadblocks,” said Paul Watts, general manager of the Bell Helicopter Lafayette Aircraft Assembly facility. “We have set an aggressive timeline for ourselves, but are confident we can meet it.”

In addition to creating 115 new jobs at the Bell 505 assembly facility, Bell Helicopter will maintain more than 60 existing jobs in the region associated with two existing facilities that perform rotor blade and composite repair and overhaul. 

Assembly of the first Bell 505 test aircraft is progressing at Bell Helicopter’s commercial assembly facility in Mirabel, Canada, and first flight is expected to take place by the end of 2014. Type Certificate activities with Transport Canada and Production Certification activities with the Federal Aviation Administration are also underway.

With a cruise speed of 125 knots (232 km/h), range of 360 nautical miles (667 km) and useful load of 1,500 pounds (608 kg), the Bell 505 is designed to be safe and easy to fly while remaining affordably priced. The customer-driven design of the aircraft places safety, performance and affordability at the forefront, blending proven systems with advanced technology and a sleek, modern design. The Garmin G1000H Integrated Avionics Suite provides pilots critical flight information at a glance to maximize situational awareness. Pilot workload is further reduced by the Turbomeca Arrius 2R engine with dual channel Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC).

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