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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rotorcraft Report: Bell Canada Lays Off 500 People

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Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Ltd. (BHTCL) has laid off 500 employees at its Mirabel plant; located outside Montreal, Canada. The layoffs effectively cut the Mirabel workforce by 24 percent, from 2100 to 1600. According to BHTCL director of business development Michele Legault, the 500 "temporary layoffs" will last for three months at least. The BHTCL plant produces Bell 206B, 206L, 407, 412, 427 and 429 helicopters. Both assembly line and office staff were affected by the cuts.

Legault blames the layoffs on softening customer commitments. Although BHTCL has a long backlog of orders, many of its customers "are not eager to take possession for various reasons," he told Rotor & Wing. Chief among these is the fact that most of BHTCL’s products are being purchased by customers to serve as revenue-makers. With the dive in the world economy, "those revenues are not there," he said. As a result, customers caught in this bind are coming to BHTCL and saying, "I’m just not ready to take my helicopter; can you hold it for a couple of months?" The only good news — so far — is that BHTCL customers have not been walking away from their deposits.

If all goes to plan, BHTCL will be able to recall its laid-off staff once the market picks up in a few months. Until then, the company’s goal is to "slow the machine," said Legault; reducing the number of aircraft produced to match the slowdown in deliveries rather than devouring its order backlog. Ironically, BHTCL increased its workforce in the past few years to keep up with the then-burgeoning helicopter market.

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