Scott Donnelly, chief executive of Bell Helicopter parent Textron, indicates the rotorcraft manufacturer will shortly begin to convert letters of intent (LoI) for the 505 Jet Ranger X light single to firm orders.
Speaking on a first-quarter earnings call on 20 April, Donnelly said the process to transition the LoIs to a firm backlog will “start pretty soon”.
By early April Bell had accumulated more than 380 tentative commitments for the type.
Deliveries of the first helicopters are “likely in the fourth quarter”, says Donnelly, which means the manufacturer is running about 12 months behind schedule on the programme.
Similarly, Bell will begin to firm up the backlog for the 525 Relentless in mid-2017 “as we get closer to certification”.
That milestone is likely to be achieved by “mid-summer or early fall”, says Donnelly, with first delivery following by year-end.
Bell delivered 30 commercial helicopters in the quarter ended 31 March, down from 35 in the same period a year earlier.
Donnelly describes the commercial market as “still challenging”, but remains confident of Bell’s portfolio.