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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Heard in the Hallways: Coming Up Next...

The word at last month’s biennial Helitech trade show was that AgustaWestland is discussing a new aircraft model and Eurocopter may be working on new concepts.

With a typical 8-10-year cycle for the development, design, and fielding of a new helicopter, many of the world’s airframe manufacturers are busy figuring out what their next products will be. Bell Helicopter was in the midst of customer surveys on the concept for a new medium twin when CEO Mike Redenbaugh was ousted at the start of the year. That initiative apparently survived his departure and the changes wrought by his successors, Richard Millman. Bell officials say they are looking to settle on formal design criteria for that aircraft by late next year or early 2009.

Having fielded the Grand derivative of its A109 in 2005, AgustaWestland is ripe to start work on a new model. Attendees at Helitech were briefed on a proposal for a new aircraft to shrink the gap between the Grand, with a 3.5 max takeoff weight, and the 7-ton AW139. Some surprise was expressed that the proposed aircraft was much closer to the Grand than the AW139 on a weight chart included in briefing material.

Eurocopter, meanwhile, is said to be surveying operators on proposals for a quick-change cabin configuration. It was unclear whether the proposals were for a new aircraft or options for the manufacturer’s existing products.

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