Bell's largest commercial helicopter to be built in Amarillo - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Bell's largest commercial helicopter to be built in Amarillo

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Amarillo, TX - Bell Helicopter has unveiled its new product, the Bell 525 Relentless. NewsChannel 10 was there in Dallas for the unveiling at the Heli-Expo and got exclusive details.

Bell announced this new project will be the helicopter of tomorrow and construction of the largest commercial helicopter the company has ever built will take place right here in Amarillo.

With a lot of firsts and bests in class performance, it will be different from any other aircraft in the field.

It will be equipped with the newest technology, which comes to Bell's advantage.

It will feature fly by wire flight control computers which provide the ability to operate in the harshest environments safely, as well as reliably, with decreased pilot workload.

The helicopter will also include an ARC cockpit system that can identify and help fix problems during critical situations.

"We'll really raise the bar in terms of what it means to fly in a helicopter. I really believe that Bell is paving the way, not just in performance and guaranteed performance but also in the ability to safely monitor the systems on the aircraft to understand how we're flying in it," says Larry Thimmesch, vice president of commercial programs, Bell Helicopter Amarillo base.

This helicopter won't just serve one purpose, it will serve several all across the market.

"The biggest one will be oil and gas, to be able to carry workers out to the oil platforms farther out then anything that flies today. There's also applications for fire fighting, for search and rescue, for utility and of course you can make a very nice executive aircraft out of it as well," says Robert Hastings, senior vice president, Bell Helicopter Amarillo base.

It will be large enough for sixteen passengers and two crew members.

There is currently a demand for this type of helicopter for the oil and gas industry, Bell hopes to meet that demand and win in the market.

Bell Helicopter is also pushing its commercial business to keep their revenue and our economy going strong.

The Bell 525 Relentless aims to do just that.

Since the Vietnam War, Bell has counted on military sales for a large share of it's revenue but a recent cut to their V-22 program has them looking at other ways to stay on top.

Bell Helicopter says they have a broad and diverse base of business made up of three parts: military, commercial and after-market business.

Now was the perfect time for them to invest in the 500-million dollar project.

"We haven't changed our main focus of Amarillo being military but we decided to build it there to balance the production lines and do our best to use all of the capacity we have there in Amarillo," says Robert Hastings, senior vice president, Bell Helicopter Amarillo base.

This means you will start to see Amarillo's base expand.

With a high demand currently in the offshore oil market, this new helicopter is expected to be very successful.

There is the potential the number of sales will exceed expectations and in turn could be beneficial economically for Amarillo.

At this time Bell is unsure if jobs will be added but they believe there will be job shifting.

"From an Amarillo perspective, I would say it just really puts an exclamation mark on the capability that we have there, that we want to expand into the commercial product line. So, I think that will go a long way and we're all going to learn together what that means for the community and for Bell," says Larry Thimmesch, vice president of commercial programs, Bell Helicopter Amarillo base.

The company says there is a lot of activity already being planned in Amarillo in order to support a 2014 flight test.

Bell mentioned they are considering offering a version of the 525 relentless to the military in the future.