Bell Helicopter is confident that its 525 Relentless super-medium-class rotorcraft will be back in the air shortly, despite a self-imposed grounding that has now lasted almost a year and has seen service entry pushed back to 2019.

The US airframer instituted a flight ban on its two remaining prototypes following the fatal crash of its initial flight-test vehicle (N525TA) on 6 July 2016.

But speaking on a pre-Paris air show media call on 5 June, Bell chief executive Mitch Snyder said that re-assembly of its two remaining test aircraft was almost complete.

"We are preparing for flight and expect to be in the air in the near term," he says, although declines to offer a specific timeline. Ground runs are also yet to take place, he admits.

In addition, two production-standard 525s are "coming together" at its Amarillo, Texas site. The first will be complete this year, says Snyder, with the second aircraft finished in early 2018.

Bell had previously indicated that both production-representative aircraft would be complete this year.

Snyder says its "current plan" is to obtain US Federal Aviation Administration in late 2018, leading to first delivery early the following year.

Two experimental test pilots were killed in the 2016 accident, which occurred during high-speed testing near its Fort Worth facility in Texas.

Initial information from the US National Transportation Safety Board suggested that the helicopter had broken apart in mid-air after its rotors contacted both the tail boom and nose of the aircraft.

Meanwhile, the manufacturer says that FAA and European certification for its 505 Jet Ranger X light-single is "imminent".

It received Transport Canada approval for the Safran Helicopter Engines Arrius 2R-powered helicopter in December 2016. FAA certification was previously expected in the first quarter of this year.