Production at Forth Worth factory taken out of mothballs, following 14-aircraft order from Offshore Logistics group

Bell has re-opened the production line for the 206L-4 LongRanger IV following a joint 14-aircraft order from companies within the Offshore Logistics (OLOG) group. Bell had mothballed the line at its Fort Worth, Texas, factory in July after taking the decision in early 2002 to concentrate on 407 sales.

Bell says workers from other lines will be used to restart production of the single-engined light helicopter and the first aircraft will be delivered to Lafayette, Louisiana-based OLOG in May next year. OLOG, which includes Air Logistics, is understood to have specified the LongRanger over the 407 for its deal, due to a list price that was 20% lower.

"The LongRanger and the 407 are complementary, with the 407's extra 15-20kt [30-40km/h] not needed on shorter legs," says Alan Moffatt, Bell European marketing director.

The 407 was developed from the LongRanger IV, with a four-blade rotor and a 815shp (605kW) Rolls-Royce 250-C47 derated to 400shp, providing 450kg (1,000lb) extra external load.

The cabin on the 407 is also 178mm (7in) wider than that of the Bell 206 series it had been designed to replace. Bell is understood to have taken the decision to re-open the production line after 10 months after substantial pressure from OLOG for the cheaper helicopter. Bell says there are no logistical problems in restarting production.

Bell says it has five additional customers for the LongRanger from the offshore, VIP and law enforcement sectors. The line is now sold out for 2004 and 2005, says Moffatt. Sales for the 407 are expected to be around "four or five short" of the target of 50 helicopters, already revised down from 1997's high of 140 aircraft.

Bell is also expecting "double digit" demand for the 430 intermediate twin over the next few months to offshore oil transportation companies in West Africa and the Gulf of Mexico serving "long, thin legs", says Moffatt.

Source: Flight International