Bell Helicopter records lower sales and profit in third quarter

Bell Helicopter employs about 4,100 at its campus in east Fort Worth.
Bell Helicopter employs about 4,100 at its campus in east Fort Worth.

Sales and profit at Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter declined in the third quarter as its parent Textron reported a small drop in operating profit.

Bell’s profit for the three months ended Oct. 1 was $97 million, down $2 million from last year. Revenues declined by about 3 percent to $734 million.

In a press release, Rhode Island-based Textron said Bell delivered 25 commercial helicopters in the quarter, off from 45 last year. That was partially offset by an increase in its military business, with 6 V-22s delivered, up from 4 last year.

Bell, which is celebrating its 65th year in Fort Worth, has been restructuring over the past two years in the face of a slowdown in commercial helicopter sales and declining V-22 deliveries. Its Fort Worth employment has declined to 4,100 at a renovated and expanded campus in east Fort Worth, where it has consolidated area operations.

On a conference call with analysts, Textron CEO Scott Donnelly said Bell experienced a significant uptick in order activity in the last quarter, raising hopes that the worst is behind it.

“We believe that Bell commercial helicopter demand has stabilized and may be in the early stages of recovery,” he said. Bell expects to achieve initial certification on its new 505 Jet Ranger later this year, with deliveries beginning shortly thereafter, he said.

Meanwhile, the company’s other new helicopter program, the 525 Relentless, remains grounded while federal investigators try to determine the cause of a crash this summer that killed two test pilots. “We don’t have a time or date on the exact return to flight,” Donnelly said.

Textron, which also makes Cessna business jets, said its aviation division reported operating profit of $310 million, down $2 million from last year, with revenues up 2.2 percent to $3.3 billion. Textron said it delivered 41 Citation jets and 29 King Air turboprops in the quarter, compared to 37 jets and 29 King Airs a year ago.

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko