Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Bell Helicopter Textron is campaigning to prevent companies fraudulently selling military-surplus helicopters as commercially certificated.

The first of several lawsuits has been filed in Seattle against Washington-based Intrex Helicopters. Bell alleges that Intrex used components from an ex-military UH-1 "and obtained certification of the aircraft by making it appear to be a commercial Bell 204B". Bell also accuses Intrex of using a counterfeit Bell data plate and forged sale documents.

The 204 was a civil version of the UH-1 and only 72 were built. As a commercially certificated helicopter, the 204 can be used for public transport and other "for hire" purposes, while the civil use of ex-military UH-1s is severely restricted by the US Federal Aviation Administration. The shortage of 204s and relative abundance of military-surplus UH-1s has led to counterfeiting, Bell says.

According to the manufacturer, data plates have been taken from crashed 204s and put on UH-1s, and the ex-military helicopters have been sold as commercially certificated 204s. "We have sent people to look at some of these aircraft. They have gun mounts and hardpoints and are obviously not 204s," the company says.

Bob Rohde, legal counsel leading the company's national anti-piracy campaign, says: "Bell has discovered a number of instances in which individuals have taken data plates-from destroyed aircraft and used them on aircraft that were assembled entirely from parts." "Bell has found that in a number of instances these aircraft include non-FAA-approved parts, including parts from military surplus aircraft," he says.

Although the legal campaign is aimed at eliminating piracy of Bell's registered trademarks, the company underlines that transferring or counterfeiting aircraft data plates is illegal, as is the use of non-approved parts.

Source: Flight International