One of Fort Worth's oldest and most respected companies is getting an image makeover, including a new name and logo, officials said Thursday.
The former Bell Helicopter, a nearly century-old aerospace and defense contractor with about 4,000 employees in North Texas and 7,200 worldwide, is dropping the word "Helicopter" from its moniker and will be known simply as Bell.
The new logo features a red-and-white shield with the new company name at the top and a dragonfly silhouette at the bottom.
The changes are meant to reflect the company's evolving mission and focus on emerging technology, CEO Mitch Snyder said.
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"We're not a helicopter company. We're not a tilt-rotor company. We're a technology company that is redefining flight," Snyder told the Star-Telegram during an interview at the company's headquarters near Hurst.
For example, the company last year began working with Uber to design a battery-powered, tilt-rotor small aircraft that could be used to launch an air taxi service in Dallas-Fort Worth, possibly by 2023.
Bell's leadership believes "on-demand mobility," such as air taxis and unmanned aircraft that can haul heavy loads over challenging terrain, could become as big a part of the company's mission as its traditional business, he said.
Smaller unmanned aircraft, including vessels that can navigate enemy territory for the military or bypass urban traffic congestion for civilian customers, as widely seen as part of the aviation future. In concept, many of these vehicles would be battery-powered.
Snyder said the dragonfly concept evolved after months of discussions with FutureBrand, a consulting firm that specializes in corporate imagery. The dragonfly is meant to invoke a sense of creativity and innovation, characteristics that Bell wants to convey to its customers and workforce alike.
"The dragonfly has been around for 300 million years, and it is probably the most amazing flying creature on Earth," Snyder said. "It can take off and land any way it wants. It can see 360 degrees. It captures 95 percent of the prey it goes after."
It is the first makeover since Textron Inc. bought Bell Helicopter in 1960.
Textron is a $13 billion conglomerate that also owns a variety of defense and aerospace companies, including aircraft manufacturers such as Beechcraft and Cessna. Textron also owns EZGO golf carts, Arctic Cat snowmobiles and Textron Off Road vehicles.
Bell was founded in 1935 by Larry Bell and has produced more than 35,000 aircraft over the years, including many for the U.S. military.
More recently, Bell has become known for producing the V-22 Osprey in a partnership with Boeing. The tilt-rotor aircraft can take off like a helicopter but fly with the performance of a fixed-wing craft, with a top speed of 316 mph.
Bell also is developing another tilt-rotor aircraft, the V-280 Valor. And last year Bell unveiled an experimental concept known as the FCX-001 that features five rotor blades that can morph during flight, which Bell says should improve efficiency and make the vehicles quieter.