Bell is assessing likely production numbers next year for its new Bell 429 light-twin as it converts letters of intent into firm orders. Deliveries of the helicopter - Bell's first with forward-facing passenger seats and with optional clam-shell rear doors - began in July and the manufacturer will ship four this year.
The emergency medical services market is Bell's main target for the 429, a larger-cabin successor to the 427, although the aircraft will also appeal to sightseeing and corporate operators, says Danny Maldonado, senior vice-president customer support. Bell expects overall civil and export deliveries (excluding US military) this year to total about 180 aircraft, similar to 2008.
Maldonado says enquiries are picking up as signs of recovery appear in the global economy. Although this is not yet converting to a rise in firm orders, "it is always the first sign".
© Bell Helicopters