Bell Helicopter announced that the Bell Helicopter Lafayette Assembly Center is officially open for business in Lafayette, La., where the company will assemble the new commercial helicopter, the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X.
Louisiana Economic Development (LED) Secretary Steven Grissom and other state, regional and local officials joined Bell Helicopter’s president and CEO, John Garrison, to commemorate the occasion today at the Lafayette Regional Airport. (Pictured Left to Right: Jason el Koubi, Al Gonsoulin, Bell Helicopter president and CEO John Garrison, general manager of the Bell Helicopter Lafayette Aircraft Assembly Center Paul Watts, Joel Robideaux, Joey Durel. Photo taken by: Jon Steele)
“Today’s dedication of the Bell Helicopter Lafayette Assembly Center opens a new era in Louisiana’s rich history in aerospace. From the original home of Delta Airlines, to pre-World War II aircraft assembly operations, to NASA’s space shuttle program and its current mission that will send manned flights to the moon and Mars, Louisiana has played a leading role in flight,” said Governor Bobby Jindal. “Bell Helicopter recognized these historic accomplishments, along with the major energy-related transportation companies in our state that rely on helicopter transit. We’re proud that Louisiana’s rapidly improving business climate, our outstanding workforce and our unmatched quality of life led Bell Helicopter to make Louisiana its state of choice for this aerospace project, which will benefit our people for generations to come.”
The new 82,300-square-foot, $26.3 million hangar facility is built on a 14.5-acre site and Bell Helicopter will lease the facility from the Lafayette Regional Airport. The project was funded by the State of Louisiana and the company plans to invest $11.4 million in equipment and tooling. Bell Helicopter is ramping up the hiring process for the facility, and assembly operations are expected to start early this year with deliveries to follow in 2016 after certification of the aircraft. The facility is expected to create 115 new jobs in Lafayette.
“The Bell 505 Jet Ranger X is priced to compete and offers an exceptional combination of value, performance and features available on the market,” said Garrison. “We look forward to delivering this aircraft to our customers around the world and want to thank the state of Louisiana and Lafayette parish for going above and beyond to support our business.”
The grand opening marks the one year anniversary of the facility’s groundbreaking. At the ceremony, guests were able to tour the facility – getting up close with the Bell 505 flight simulator, and view the first Bell 505 engine delivered to the facility – the Turbomeca Arrius 2R.
To date, Bell Helicopter has received more than 350 letters of intent from around the globe for the Bell 505. The five-seat, single-engine, turbine helicopter leverages Bell Helicopter’s proven technology and nearly half a century of experience defining the short light single market with the original Bell JetRanger.
“We are excited to have successfully reached this milestone of the facility opening, and our proud to share in this moment with our customers, employees, suppliers and the Lafayette community,” said Paul Watts, general manager of the Bell Helicopter Lafayette Aircraft Assembly Center. “This advances us one step closer to production and delivery of this aircraft.”
With a cruise speed of 125 knots (232 km/h), range of 360 nautical miles (667 km) and useful load of 1,500 pounds (608 kg), the Bell 505 is designed to be safe and easy to fly while remaining affordably priced. The customer-driven design of the aircraft places safety, performance and affordability at the forefront, blending proven systems with advanced technology and a sleek, modern design. The Garmin G1000H Integrated Avionics Suite provides pilots critical flight information at a glance to maximize situational awareness. Pilot workload is further reduced by the Turbomeca Arrius 2R engine with dual channel Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC).