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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Two Debutantes Take the Stage on Opening Day of Heli-Expo

By Andrew Drwiega, Military Editor

Two dramatic launches—mood music, helicopters behind screens and clever audio visual presentations—accompanied the launches of the Bell 525 Relentless super medium transport (SMT) and the Eurocopter EC130T2.
While you can find the full specifications elsewhere in this news section, Bell President & CEO John Garrison told a packed audience that this was “Bell on a mission to revitalize our commercial business.” He also keenly emphasized Textron’s belief in the helicopter business after years where Bell has, to some extent, been seen as the weakest OEM among the four major helicopter makers. It lost international market share and has seemingly suffered from its long-term commitment to the development of the tiltrotors—both the military V-22 and civil BA609.

Bell introduced the 525 Relentless Feb. 12 during Heli-Expo. Photo by Andrew Parker, Editor-in-Chief

However, it has now rid itself of any further responsibility for the (now re-badged) AW609—unless AgustaWestland manages to turn it into a military aircraft in the future (and then we are led to believe it may have an interest again). The V-22s are nicely into production and have served with the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force in war zones, but the now steady acquisition has poured regular income into the company’s coffers, even if the Department of Defense cuts back on production. And now a new five-bladed, 10-ton helicopter, the Bell 525 Relentless has been launched with the corner just having been turned from the bad times of the last few years.
The crowd then moved, well hiked if truth be told, from one end of Heli-Expo to the other to see Eurocopter’s launch. The clock stuck midday … and we waited, and waited a little longer for the throng to make it over to this second unveiling. Emphasizing Eurocopter’s historic pedigree going back to the early European pioneers—George Wolf, Juan de la Cierva—then pulled back wraps on the EC130T2, a Turbomeca Arriel D2-powered single engine helicopter. Its improvements were said to include 10 knots higher cruise speed, 2 percent less fuel consumption, better hot and high performance and a higher sling load of 30 percent.

Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling with the EC130T2. Photo by Andrew Parker

Six out of seven new customers lined up to support Eurocopter by saying the company had delivered what they had asked for in this type of machine—among them Maverick, Papillon, Enloe (an EMS provider) and Blue Hawaiian. Quotes included: “the day we flew it, you hit 100 percent”; “you made a good helicopter even better,” and praise for it being cost effective. Eurocopter was even happier with the current orders—105 between the seven launch customers!

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