Bell Helicopter’s new chief executive Mitch Snyder has again re-iterated his commitment to bringing “disruptive technology” to the rotorcraft market and has dropped the strongest hint yet of its plans to launch an entirely new design.

Speaking at a media briefing on the eve of Heli-Expo, Snyder said the manufacturer is “looking at two or three clean sheets”, which are “at the study level right now”.

Although Snyder declines to be drawn on which segments Bell is targeting he admits that “if we look at all the families there are a couple of places we could go”.

One logical helicopter for replacement is the 412EPI. As part of its selection by Tokyo for its UH-X programme, production of the 5.4t helicopter will eventually transfer to Japan, leaving a likely gap in Bell’s line-up. First delivery of the UH-X is scheduled for 2022, says Bell.

“That [412 replacement] is one of the ones we could do,” says Snyder when pressed, but does not elaborate further.

The 412 is built at Bell’s Mirabel, Canada facility and Snyder re-affirms its commitment to that facility: “We will have a new product line up there.”

But Bell is also analysing the balance between new helicopters and refreshes of existing products, he says. It is working on several advancements he says, which “we can bring to upgrades right now”

Regardless of which path is chosen, however, Snyder is insistent that Bell, and the wider helicopter industry “has to start innovating again”.

This may be around different propulsion systems or optionally piloted technologies, he says. “We are asking what technologies are out there that we can bring to the rotorcraft business.”

Otherwise there is a danger that the industry “will work itself into a commodity situation” where the only differentiator is price “and innovation is not valued”.

However, he plays down the prospects of a commercial variant of the V-280 tiltrotor, which is currently being developed for the US military as part of a technology demonstration effort.

Noting that it is already “in the civil tiltrotor business” thanks to its continued minor participation in AgustaWestland’s AW609 – Bell sold its 50% share in the programme in 2011 – and that it was “fully behind Agusta”, he nonetheless describes a commercial variant as “an interesting concept”.

In addition, there is no contractual restriction on it pursuing a development in that area. “There’s nothing preventing us from doing anything that we want,” he says.

Research and development spending will stay at current levels, he says, even as its three new programmes – the 505 and 525 civil helicopters alongside the military V-280 – enter service.