Textron chief executive Scott Donnelly confirmed that Bell Helicopter will launch a new commercial helicopter to be built at the company's Amarillo, Texas.

"We're looking at capacity as we see levels flat or decreasing for things like the V-22 in 2015," said Donnelly during a fourth quarter 2011 earnings call with investors this morning. "Most [of Bell's] commercial helicopter production has been in Canada and military production in Amarillo. The product to be announced at Heli-Expo will be produced in Amarillo."

Heli-Expo is scheduled from 12-14 February in Dallas.

A leaked letter from Bell chief executive John Garrison to Bell employees earlier this month discussed how the new Magellan medium-heavy helicopter for the offshore oil industry would be designed and developed in Fort Worth and produced in Amarillo. A recent YouTube video issued by Bell shows a new product with the first initial "R" to be introduced at the show as well.

Donnelly did not discuss the accuracy of recent news reports that the helicopter is to be a twin-engine 9.5t-category transport with advanced rotor and other systems.

Bell revenue increased $35 million in the fourth quarter compared to the fourth quarter in 2010. The company delivered 7 V-22s, 6 H-1s and 62 commercial helicopters in the quarter compared to 7, 7, and 71 rotorcraft, respectively, in the same the year before.

Backlog at the end of the quarter was $7.3 billion, up $981 million compared to the end of the third quarter.

Due to US military cutbacks, Bell is planning for V-22 production to ramp up to 39 aircraft in 2012, 40 in 2013, 39 in 2014 and lesser numbers thereafter. Bell is attempting to backfill the expected production excess capacity starting in 2015 with foreign military sales.

"We took [foreign military customers} on V-22 demonstration flights at the Dubai air show," said Donnelly. "There were no questions in the customers' minds on how valuable [the V-22] would be in their service."

Source: Flight International