Helicopter manufacturer Bell expects a robust year ahead across its product portfolios on the back of strong demand post-pandemic.

Sameer Rehman, Bell’s managing director for Asia Pacific, says the region has “seen the bright light of promise”, pointing to the “telling signs” that commercial and military rotorcraft demand is on the rise.

Bell 505 - Corporate

Source: Bell

Bell picked up a string of orders from Southeast Asian customers.

Rehman says the light-single 505 has continued to see “robust sales”, with the manufacturer picking up orders for two examples from Malaysia-based operator Hammock Helicopter at the start of the Singapore air show. 

It is the latest in a string of orders from Southeast Asian customers, including 505s bound for the Philippines and Indonesia. To date, the company has delivered more than 505 units of the helicopter worldwide. 

Rehman says the 505 has great potential as a military trainer, viewing it as a “key segment” for the company. Notably, South Korea in May 2022 decided to procure 40 examples for training army and navy pilots.

Bell’s larger single-engined 407GXi is also set to enter service soon with two Asian operators: Ginger Aviation in Taiwan and Meghna Aviation in Bangladesh. 

Meghna’s 407GXi is the latest addition to the Dhaka-based operator’s fleet: it already has an older 407GX, as well as a twin-engined 429 which it signed for in 2017. The latest purchase will be deployed to “support the company’s corporate, leisure and utility helicopter charter services”. 

Meanwhile, at the Singapore show, Bell is also exhibiting the 429 equipped with the company’s new Designer Series interior – the first time the VIP design has been showcased in Southeast Asia.

Rehman also promises that Bell will finally deliver the first production examples of the 525 Relentless this year, destined for the oil and gas segment. In development for over a decade – it was launched in 2012 – the super-medium-twin is the airframer’s “most anticipated” product update for 2024. However, it has yet to secure US certification. 

Bell says it cannot comment on the timeline of US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification but continues to perform Type Inspection Authorization flight testing in collaboration with the agency.

Recent milestones include the completion of avionics, airspeed and attitude testing with the FAA, while handling qualities testing is in progress. 

Rehman also acknowledges that while Bell is not immune to the global aerospace supply chain crunch, the company is “continuously looking at the supply chain… to examine ways to [build] our products more efficiently, both cost- and time-wise”. 

“We are not out of the woods when it comes to the supply chain… but the great thing is that we are diverse. We have a global supply chain that allows us to navigate geopolitical issues, labour issues, among other things,” he adds. 

In 2023, Bell delivered 171 commercial helicopters, slightly down from 2022’s 179-unit total. Of the 171, more than half were 505s and 407s.

Rehman is positive about the prospects of the broader sector. “Rotorcraft will remain a mainstay, they are not vintage by any means – [but] we are developing technologies to… be in step with advances in innovation.”

Singapore is home to Bell’s Asia Pacific service centre, where it has an MRO and component repair facility, along with a paint shop.