It hasn’t been a great year for commercial helicopter sales but that isn’t stopping Bell Helicopter from developing new helicopters, chief executive Mitch Snyder said.
Speaking at a Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday, Snyder said the company and its 4,000 employees in Fort Worth are focused on two new commercial helicopters, the 525 Relentless and the 505 Jet Ranger X, along with a new tilt-rotor, the V280 Valor.
“We continue investing in new aircraft,” Snyder told the audience of about 200 attendees. “The key to our growth is to have those products ready when our customers are ready.”
But he acknowledged that the commercial helicopter market sales have been sluggish since he became CEO in October 2015. The company laid off 1,100 workers earlier that year as helicopter sales declined.
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“I took the helm as CEO last year in the middle of an unprecedented world market decline impacting every rotorcraft company and supplier worldwide,” Snyder said. “Total commercial sales in our industry this year will be about 50 percent what they were in 2013.”
One of those products is the 525 Relentless which has been grounded for test flights following a fatal crash in July that killed two pilots. Snyder said the company is working closely government officials in the crash investigation and there is no timetable on when the Relentless may fly again.
“We’re taking this process very seriously and we’re still very committed to this program,” Snyder said. The 525 Relentless will carry between 16 to 20 people and could be used to transport workers to offshore oil rigs.
During his speech, Snyder reiterated the company’s commitment to Fort Worth as it recently celebrated 65 years at its Fort Worth headquarters.
“We are deeply involved in the community and continue to have an impact on the local economy,” Snyder said, noting the company expects to generate $38.4 billion