Bell Helicopter is no more. The Textron company and global aircraft manufacturer has begun a rebranding, and now will go by simply Bell. The new brand strategy and modernized logo are rooted in the company’s focus on innovation and customer experience.
"Being a pioneer is part of the legacy at Bell," said Mitch Snyder, president and CEO. "We needed to have a brand that reflected this." Bell is not a helicopter company, he said, nor is it a tiltrotor company. "We're a technology company that’s redefining flight. We aspire to master flight, which is what the dragonfly has done"—and earned a depiction in the new Bell logo.
Bell introduced its first new helicopter, the Bell 407GXi, at Heli-Expo 2018. An upgrade of the 407, the 407GXi incorporates new avionics, an upgraded engine, and new executive interior design options. Already certified by Transport Canada, the first delivery is scheduled this spring.
The new model incorporates Garmin's G1000H NXi integrated flight deck, with faster processors, quicker startup, and accelerated map rendering, as well as wireless connectivity to tablets and smartphones. It is powered by the new Rolls-Royce M250-C47E/4 dual-channel FADEC turbine engine, which offers improved fuel efficiency and a 133-knot cruise speed, in addition to enhanced hot and high performance. New executive configuration options bring a modernized look and passenger experience to the five-seat club cabin. Options include the Garmin FlightStream 510, which allows pilots to upload flight plans from smart devices.
Snyder noted that the fly-by-wire Bell 525 has returned to flight following a flight-test accident. "We've got a total of 500 hours on the three aircraft," he said. "The 525 will be the most innovative helicopter when certified. And we anticipate certification in the 2019 time frame." The search-and-rescue community has expressed a lot of interest in the airframe, he said. A 525 in Bristow colors is being displayed at Heli-Expo 2018.
Bell’s V&ndash280 tiltrotor made its first flight in December 2017. "We actually completed that aircraft on schedule," he said. "We've been investing heavily in it. It’s one of our top priorities." The U.S. Army is a partner in its development through the Future Vertical Lift Program.
And the company continues to look at innovation, becoming the first helicopter company to exhibit at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas during January. Bell displayed the cabin mockup for its air taxi cabin design. The four-passenger cabin shows the company's vision for an on-demand mobility aircraft that can provide an urban air taxi ride. Bell will be a part of the Uber Elevate program, Snyder added.
A quiet aircraft will be important to meet Uber's noise requirements, he said. “We're looking at different types of technologies. Safe, efficient, and quiet have to be there. We’re working from the cabin out."