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Thu, Jan 19, 2012

Bell Expected To Introduce Clean Sheet Helicopter 'Soon'

Non-Military Aircraft In Development For Long-Haul Offshore Market

Bell Helicopter is reportedly getting very close to unveiling its new civilian helicopter, which it is developing for use primarily in the offshore oil market. The aircraft will fill a niche transporting oil and natural gas workers more than 200 miles off shore.

The new aircraft design is expected to be revealed at Heli-Expo in Dallas in February, according to a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The aircraft, codenamed "Project Magellan," is designed as a twin-engine aircraft with a five-bladed main rotor. It's range is anticipated to be in the 400-600 nautical mile range, giving operators the ability to transport workers at least 200 NM and return on a single tank of fuel.

Magellan represents a clean-sheet, $500 million design project for the helicopter maker. The company is aggressively pursuing a mid-2016 certification date, with sales reaching 60-70 aircraft per year by 2020. Analysts, however, say those forecasts are "aggressive."

Bell has some established competition in the market segment. Sikorsky, AgustaWestland, and Eurocopter all make or are designing aircraft with similar capabilities.

Bell hopes that this aircraft will help fill a void left as defense budgets are cut. The company says it will need a strong line of modern civilian aircraft on the market to stay in business.

FMI: www.bellhelicopter.com

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