Bell Helicopter has selected Lafayette Regional Airport in Louisiana as the assembly base for its Short Light Single. The decision follows a highly competitive, five-month selection process in which a number of sites in Canada, Mexico and the US were “seriously considered”, it says.

To secure the project, the state of Louisiana offered Bell a multi-million dollar incentive package, including around $4 million to subsidise the lease on a new 82,300ft2, $26.3 million hangar facility. This will house SLS assembly and will be built, funded and owned by the state of Louisiana.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2014 and full-scale assembly will start in 2016 following SLS certification, says Bell.

The five-seat turbine-powered SLS was launched at the Paris Air Show in June, marking Bell’s return to the light single-engined helicopter sector which it pioneered with the introduction in 1966 of its 206 Jetranger.

Production was halted in 2010 and Bell is now hoping the SLS will shake up this hotly-contested niche which is dominated by the Robinson R66 and Eurocopter EC120.

The SLS – which will be formally named at the Heli-Expo show in February – features a Garmin G1000 integrated flightdeck and is powered by the 370shp (276kW) Turbomeca Arrius 2R, with a useful load of at least 680kg (1,500lb) and a maximum range of more than 360nm (667km).

The Fort Worth, Texas-based airframer says Lafayette was also chosen due to its proximity to leading helicopter operators. “Lafayette – along the Acadiana, Bayou and Southwest regions of Louisiana – anchors a helicopter industry that has served the offshore oil and gas, aerospace training and emergency services sectors for decades,” Bell explains. “These include leading operators PHI, ERA Helicopters and the Bristow Group.”