How important is the corporate segment for your commercial helicopter market?
Bell has been a proud provider of industry-leading corporate aircraft for our 87-year history. The corporate market has always been a strategically important sector for Bell and one we are always looking at to drive innovation in our product portfolio to deliver the most advanced aircraft to our corporate customers around the world. In 2020, private aviation saw a 300% spike in new travelers, and we continue to see that demand in 20222. As businesses scope out their post-pandemic futures, private helicopter travel could become the new standard for leaders who need to save time and gain flexibility.
The large cabin Bell 429 has been particularly successful in corporate mission roles, can you tell us more about why this helicopter is so popular with corporate and VIP customers?
The Bell 429 has become a favorite for personal and corporate travel because of its spacious and highly- customizable cabin including seating configurations, leather and other interior suite options. In addition, it also provides a very quiet cabin which is important for in flight conversations and executive-level business. All Bell Corporate aircraft, notable the Bell 429 can be equipped with advanced technologies, entertainment amenities, in order to provide our customer with a space that is fully customizable for their needs. We offer various seating configurations, an assortment of leathers for seats and upholsteries, pedestals for storage, ambiance lighting and unique designs that can be customized to anyone’s liking. The Bell 429 is fast and comfortable, The Bell 429 features a twin engine can cruise at 150 knots as well as an advanced four-blade rotor system that delivers a smooth flight.
Earlier this year, Bell announced the introduction of the Bell 429 Designer Series interior, offering a more luxurious cabin experience. Can you tell us more about this new offering?
The new Designer Series interior in the Bell 429 sets a new standard for Bell interiors. At Bell, it is important to us to provide our customers quality products and services. We’ve been working with our customers and listening to their feedback to design an interior that provides a comfortable and luxury experience in the aircraft. The Designer Series interior upgrades all cabin materials, available in 4, 5, or 6 passenger models and features include: High-quality leathers, enhanced flooring – hardwood and carpet options, Improved seat tailoring that’s now removeable and replaceable in the field, metal finishes on lights, air valves, cabin handles, and door latches, pictorial placards for enhanced aesthetics while retaining the same level of passenger safety, sturdier assist handles for ingress/egress, and headset jack bezels to improve the look and operation of passenger headsets. The new interior is offered in three coordinated color schemes created by Bell’s design staff. Bell combines material quality, cabin layout and soundproofing delivering an enhanced experience.
The fly-by-wire super medium Bell 525 certification is expected this year. Can you provide us a quick update on this program and how you see this latest generation platform fitting in the VIP/Corporate helicopter market?
The Bell 525 team is currently engaged with the FAA on Type Inspection Authorization (TIA) flight testing and is submitting certification artifacts to the FAA in parallel. The Bell 525 is truly a next-generation helicopter and will be an extension of Bell’s commitment to bring game-changing aircraft to market. The Bell 525 will be the most spacious commercial helicopter developed by Bell, with a 427 sq feet. cabin that can hold up to 19 passengers + 2 flight crew. A rotor-hub vibration eliminator system helps deliver a best-in-class ride, while minimizing noise. Huge panoramic windows provide stunning views. Modular seating, stowable flat-screen monitors, table options, cabinets, coolers, custom carpet, and window-tint choices provide plenty of versatility for travelers to design their own bespoke environment for traveling. Handcrafted leather upholstery adds comfort. A custom MAGnificient interior by Mecaer Aviation Group is available, providing an ergonomic design with a blend of style and technology that maximizes both functionality and luxury.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019, Bell presented its futuristic Nexus Air Taxi eVTOL concept showcasing Bell’s vision of the future of air mobility. Can you tell us more about this concept?
The Bell Nexus showcased Bell’s expansion of our technology capabilities, how we visualize bringing new ideas and products to market. Bell continues to invest in its commercial and military products, showcased through the advanced features and benefits of its new portfolio of aircraft: the Bell 505, 525, V-280 and 360. We are also actively enhancing our existing commercial product line. At the same time, we’re making key investments in over-the-horizon technologies, including autonomy, electrification, and safety and perception systems, and have already flown hybrid and electric solutions including our Autonomous Pod Transport and Electrically Distributed Anti-Torque (EDAT).