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Heli-Expo 2017: Market optimism is catching on

6th March 2017 - 22:00 GMT | by Beth Maundrill in Dallas


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Bell Helicopter CEO Mitch Snyder is 'cautiously optimistic' about the year ahead for the commercial helicopter market, the executive told reporters at Heli-Expo in Dallas.

Speaking at the annual rotary rendezvous, Snyder said that while there was some shrinkage on the commercial side of the company's portfolio during the previous 12 months, towards the second half of 2016 orders began to pick up, especially with the Bell 412 and 429.

'The back half of the year saw some sales coming through,' Snyder said. These were a mixture of government orders and acquisitions, some VIP configurations and parapublic orders.

Snyder highlighted parapublic as a sector currently experiencing an uptake in orders

The company brought in $3.2 billion revenue in 2016 and delivered 114 commercial aircraft; in addition Bell also delivered 22 V-22s, 18 UH-1Ys and 17 AH-1Zs.

'I think we have found the bottom of this [downturn]…and we are now going to see steady growth into the 2020s,' Snyder said, referencing data gathered by the Transporation Research Board.

He also highlighted the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X as currently having good rate of conversion from LOIs. Snyder said demand for the 505 was equal across the globe and he expects the aircraft to do well in both the military and civil training markets.

Currently the company's helicopter portfolio is around 64% military and 36% commercial, with Snyder commenting: 'I would love to have 50% commercial and 50% military and have both of them growing.'

Meanwhile, with Bell partnering with Northstar Aviation to produce a weapons kit for its Bell 429, Snyder described the partnership as a 'good fit for Bell'.

Northstar was originally a customer for Bell Helicopter and has since supplied armed Bell 407 multirole helicopters (MRH) to the Joint Aviation Command in the UAE as well as offering up its 407MRH to Australia.

Snyder said that the capability that NorthStar brings to the market fitted well with what Bell wanted to do and would work on the armed twin-engine Bell 429.

'There are competitions out there that we have talked about,' Snyder said. These will likely be the driving factor for the production of the armed 429.

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