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Textron CEO is committed to develop the Bell Helicopter 525 Relentless despite crash

Bell Helicopter 407 going through maneuvers at Arlington Municipal Airport in Arlington, TX, Thursday, July 14, 2016.
Bell Helicopter 407 going through maneuvers at Arlington Municipal Airport in Arlington, TX, Thursday, July 14, 2016. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

The crash of a Bell Helicopter 525 Relentless during a test flight earlier this month has indefinitely delayed the certification and first deliveries of the helicopter, company executives said Friday.

“We’ve suspended flight-test activities on the program until we determine the cause of the accident,” Textron Chief Executive Scott Donnelly told investors on the company’s earnings call. “We do remain committed to the 525 program and will work to ensure the aircraft will be a safe, reliable and high-performance helicopter.”

Textron, which owns Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter, said it is assisting National Transportation Safety Board investigators as they try to determine the cause of the July 6 crash in Ellis County that killed two Bell test pilots.

The 525 Relentless is a new commercial helicopter that can seat up to 20 people that Bell is developing with computer-controlled flight controls, known as “fly-by-wire.” A preliminary report from the NTSB on the crash has not been released.

Donnelly said the company is proceeding with all “non-flight relating certification” but does not have an estimate on when flight testing might resume. Bell expected to have the 525 Relentless certified next year with deliveries of the aircraft to customers in late 2017.

On Friday, Rhode Island-based Textron said second-quarter net income rose 6 percent to $177 million as revenues increased 8 percent to $3.5 billion.

The company said its aviation division’s revenues grew by $72 million as it delivered more Citation jets to customers in the quarter and has a backlog of $1.1 billion.

Revenues at the Bell Helicopter division fell $46 million as the company delivered 15 fewer commercial helicopters to customers. It delivered the same number of V-22 helicopters in the quarter, for a total of six, and three fewer H-1’s compared to the same period last year.

Shares of Textron (ticker: TXT) rose 59 cents Friday to close at $39.82 a share.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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