Bell breaks ground on Louisiana facility

Bell Helicopter breaks ground on new assembly facility in Lafayette.

Bell Helicopters has broken ground on the new Lafayette, Louisiana aircraft assembly facility. The location will be used to build and produce the new Bell 505 Jet Ranger X helicopter.

ALSO READ: Bell 505 Jet Ranger X mock-up at EBACE 2014

Governor Bobby Jindal, Lafayette City-Parish president Joey Durel and others joined Bell Helicopter president and CEO, John Garrison, to commemorate the occasion at the Lafayette Regional Airport.

The new hangar facility will be built on the site and cost $26.3 million. Bell Helicopter will lease the facility from the Lafayette Regional Airport. The project is funded by the State of Louisiana and the company plans to invest $11.4 million in equipment and tooling.

Bell Helicopter expects to begin hiring employees for the new facility by 2015, and assembly operations are expected to start by 2016, following certification of the facility and the aircraft.

Governor Jindal says: “We are delighted that construction of a world-class aerospace assembly facility is underway in Lafayette and that skilled Louisiana workers will be producing the standard-bearer for a vital segment of the commercial aviation market.”

“Companies like Bell Helicopter are recognising what Louisiana offers the top employers of the future: a best-in-the-nation business climate, an outstanding workforce, a tremendous infrastructure and a quality of life like no other. For those reasons, Louisiana is becoming the investment state of choice for expanding businesses from around the world. We are excited that hundreds of Louisiana families will benefit from the advanced aerospace assembly operations that will take place here in Lafayette,” Governor Jindal adds.

John Garrison, president and CEO of Bell Helicopter, says: “We have received tremendous interest and support from our customers for this aircraft, confirming it was absolutely the right product for the market at this time.”

“The groundbreaking of the Bell Helicopter facility in Lafayette is a significant milestone toward aircraft production and delivery. The support provided by the state of Louisiana as well as their exceptional workforce training programmes will help ensure the facility and our future workforce are operationally ready and able to quickly ramp up to meet our production demands,” adds Garrison.

Paul Watts, general manager of the Bell Helicopter Lafayette Aircraft Assembly, says: “We have a great relationship with the municipalities at the airport, and we are engaging people early on in the process to avoid any potential roadblocks. We have set an aggressive timeline for ourselves, but are confident we can meet it.”

The first Bell 505 test aircraft is under construction at Bell Helicopter’s commercial assembly facility in Mirabel, Canada and first flight is expected to take place by the end of 2014. Type and production certification are now underway.

The helicopter has a cruise speed of 125 knots with a range of 360 nautical miles and can carry five people. It is to be fitted with the new Garmin G1000H avionic suite. Currently, the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X has over 200 purchase agreements in place.

Terry Spruce

Terry is Senior News Editor and writes for both Corporate Jet Investor and Helicopter Investor. He is also responsible for our helicopter guides. Terry has been an aviation enthusiast since the early 1970s. He is a lapsed Private Pilot and ex-Piper Cherokee owner. He has flown a number of light aircraft and is comfortable sitting in the co-pilot's seat or the back of any aircraft. Before moving to journalism he was a banker for 20 years. You can contact him at: terry@corporatejetinvestor.com or follow him on twitter @Terry_Spruce

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