FORT WORTH — Bell Helicopter has replaced two top executives with a couple of the its most seasoned performers, including the program manager for the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor program.Gunnar Kleveland, a nine-year veteran at Bell, replaces Pete Riley, who is retiring as executive vice president of integrated operations. Kleveland has held leadership positions in strategic sourcing, supply chain and logistics, the company said.Jeff Lowinger, executive vice president of engineering and commercial programs, is leaving the company for a “leadership position outside Bell Helicopter,” the company said in a news release. Bell did not provide further details about Lowinger’s departure .Lowinger, who worked at Bell for five years, is being replaced by Matt Hasik, program manager for the V-22, who was named senior vice president for commercial programs. Cathy Ferrie was named senior vice president for engineering.Ferrie, a 15-year Bell veteran, had served as vice president, Xworx and research, development test and evaluation. She was in charge of the OH-58 and Bell 407 armed aircraft demonstrators.The changes in Bell’s executive leadership team took effect Wednesday, the company said.“We are excited to welcome these new members of the ELT at Bell Helicopter,” President and CEO John Garrison said in a statement.The leadership shift resembles a shake-up at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth. In March, Lockheed replaced the executive vice president of the Fort Worth-based aeronautics division and its general manager of the F-35 Lightning II program. Orlando Carvalho succeeded Larry Lawson, who left to take an executive position at a smaller aerospace firm after facing criticism from military leaders. Lorraine Martin was named general manager of the F-35.Over the past year, Fort Worth’s two largest aerospace companies have laid off dozens of employees and offered a voluntary buyout program to veteran workers to prepare for the uncertainty of defense budget cuts in Washington, D.C. But both companies have avoided sharp cuts, so far. After Carvalho’s appointment, Lockheed received an order from the Pentagon for an additional 71 F-35 fighter jets. And in June, Bell landed a multiyear contract for 99 more V-22 Osprey aircraft valued at $6.5 billion.Bell is also in the midst of contract negotiations with the union representing 2,500 machinists, forklift operators and other hourly workers. United Auto Workers Local 218 recently rejected the company’s latest “best-offer” proposal. The key dispute is over overtime, healthcare and pension benefits. The two sides are scheduled to met again next week.Bell Helicopter employs about 7,000 workers in Tarrant County.
Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705 Twitter: @yberard