Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

Bell Helicopter expects V-280 tilt-rotor to fly in September

A rendering of Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor, which will compete for an Army contract to replace older helicopters.
A rendering of Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor, which will compete for an Army contract to replace older helicopters.

Bell Helicopter’s newest tilt-rotor is almost ready for its first flight.

The V-280 Valor, which the helicopter manufacturer is designing as part of the U.S. Army’s joint-multirole demonstrator program, is about 95 percent complete at Bell’s plant in Amarillo. The company said it expects the V-280 Valor prototype to have its first flight in September.

Unlike the V-22 tilt-rotor that is also manufactured in Amarillo, the V-280 is much smaller and allows passengers to exit from side doors instead of the back door on the V-22.

Another critical difference is how the V-280 transitions from vertical to horizontal flight as only its gearboxes rotate on the aircraft. On the V-22, the entire engine rotates.

“We’re taking all the lessons learned [from the V-22] and [moving them] into the V-280,” Bell’s chief executive Mitch Snyder told reporters during a media session last week.

A team of 13 technicians is building the V-280 using the latest computer design software and 3D printing technology. As engineers at Bell’s headquarters in Fort Worth make design changes in the computer software, the technicians can see the changes on a tablet while they’re rebuilding or installing a part on the V-280.

“We know we’re building the most current configuration every time,” V-280 assembly leader Jeff Josselyn said.

With the V-280, Bell is competing against a design made by Sikorsky and Boeing as the U.S. Army decides which prototype could eventually replace its fleet of aging Blackhawk and Apache helicopters.

Target, Wal-Mart makeovers

You may have noticed construction afoot at your local Target or Wal-Mart. The discount giants are spending millions this year to renovate area stores, providing a makeover as more shoppers are turning online to buy everything from clothes to groceries.

Target says its $220 million program will renovate 28 stores in North Texas, the biggest investment it is making in a single market this year. Many stores are getting top-to-bottom renovations including remodeled grocery areas with wood-grain fixtures, additional self-checkout lanes and updated flooring and fixtures.

Target stores in Lake Worth and Weatherford were completed in April. Work on stores in Grapevine, Fort Worth (Montgomery Plaza), Mansfield, Watauga and Euless is expected be wrapped up by the end of June.

Stores in Burleson, North Richland Hills, Hurst and Flower Mound will be completed later this year.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart is renovating Supercenters for the third straight year. It recently completed work in Benbrook and will be remodeling its Arlington store on Sublett Road later this year. Stores in Saginaw, Burleson and Fort Worth were completed last year.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Ann Hatfield said the company is remodeling about 500 stores nationwide for the third year in a row, expanding produce areas to add organics, updating electronics departments to provide interactive displays and adding pickup areas to the front of Supercenters, where customers can pick up merchandise they have ordered online.

DFW is Wal-Mart’s largest single market, with more than 128 stores in nine counties including Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko