Newsflash: Bell Helicopter gets a positive review

Bell Helicopter’s struggles to perform on all three of its major military contracts (V-22, H-1 upgrades and Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter), and on virtually every military contract it has touched since the late 1950s, prompted this blogger to name the manufacturer as the George Costanza of the US defense industry (see below for links).

And I stand by that claim.

But I did receive some good news about the company’s progress yesterday from one of its most important customers, Col Keith Birkholz, program manager for the H-1 Upgrades project, which behooves me to pass it along.


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The source of such good tidings is itself surprising. Bell’s struggles in its attempt to deliver the UH-1Y and AH-1Z has prompted four major restructurings since the program began in 1996. The AH-1Z is still mired in technical problems, having failed to pass the operational evaluation phase II last spring.

As my story on FlightGlobal.com reports today, the program is now headed for a fifth restructuring that — here’s a first! — actually adds aircraft to the program.

I asked Birkholz, a straight-shooter like any marine, why he trusts Bell Helicopter to come through this time after such a clear track record of poor performance? Here’s his reply:

“Bell put together avery detailed corporate growth plan and I’m pleased to report that they are executing to their plan … [But] they have a ways to go,” Birkholz said. “Ofcourse, we’re going to continue to watch them. We’re not going to take it on faith. For the last year they have been executing to their plan, and I have confidence that they can continue to do so.”

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