Industryweek 5779 Bell Helicopter 1

Bell Helicopter to Build New Facility in Louisiana

Dec. 12, 2013
The plant, which will produce an updated version of its JetRanger called the SLS, is the latest in a series of aerospace industry project wins for Louisiana.

Pointing to Louisiana’s long history in aerospace, Gov. Bobby Jindal was happy to annoucet this wek that Bell Helicopter will produce its new SLS helicopter at Lafayette Regional Airport.

The project will create 115 new direct jobs with another 136 new, permanent indirect jobs. The company will lease space for its SLS assembly operation in a new 82,300-square-foot, $26.3 million hangar facility at Lafayette Regional Airport that is being funded by the State of Louisiana

“Companies in our state include three of the largest civilian helicopter operators in the world, along with aerospace production from contractors like Lockheed Martin and Boeing,” explained Jindal. “This announcement signals that Louisiana is ready to further expand its presence and leadership in the aerospace industry, creating quality career opportunities for our people for generations to come.”

Bell Helicopter’s production of the five-seat, single-engine, turbine helicopter will unveil a contemporary version of the aircraft pioneered by the company more than 50 years ago as the JetRanger. The SLS – or Short Light Single – will focus on safety, efficiency and reliability through the use of advanced technology

Bell Helicopter, a wholly owned subsidiary of Textron Inc (IW 1000/380), announced plans to re-enter the SLS market at the 2013 Paris Air Show in June. The SLS aircraft will feature a load capacity of 1,500 pounds, a speed of 144 mph, and a cruising range of more than 400 miles. The SLS is designed to support a wide variety of operations and is aimed heavily at the export market. Target customer segments include utility, law enforcement, civilian flight training and other applications.

“Bell Helicopter defined the short light single market nearly 50 years ago with the JetRanger, and our customers are again asking for a high-performance, high-value Bell product in this category,” said Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison.  “We have taken this challenge seriously and are focused on delivering an aircraft that is not only competitively priced, but offers features and capabilities customers have come to expect from Bell Helicopter. We considered several sites for this new facility, and Louisiana’s proposal demonstrated the state’s commitment to economic development. The state’s established aerospace industry and exceptional workforce training programs were also key factors in our decision to make Louisiana a partner in expanding our manufacturing footprint.”

To secure the project, the State of Louisiana offered a competitive incentive package that includes performance-based grants of $4.0 million for lease support, $3.8 million for infrastructure and equipment, and $0.2 million to reimburse relocation expenses. Louisiana also will provide the comprehensive solutions of LED FastStart – the nation’s No. 1-ranked state workforce development program.

The Bell Helicopter assembly facility represents the latest in a series of aerospace industry project wins for Louisiana. In August, AAR Corp. announced the establishment of a 750-employee Aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility for wide-body aircraft at Chennault International Airport in Lake Charles, La. In conjunction with the AAR project, Louisiana is establishing a national Aircraft MRO Center of Excellence that will serve Northrop Grumman and other aviation service providers. Northrop Grumman and its predecessors have performed Aircraft MRO operations for more than two decades at Chennault.

Louisiana’s aerospace industry also includes a long lineage of spacecraft assembly operations at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, ranging from the first stage of NASA’s Saturn V rocket to the Space Shuttle external tanks and current development of NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft. The Shreveport-Bossier City metro area in north Louisiana is home to the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command and Eighth Air Force, both headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, while the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse, La., near New Orleans, represents a strategic air defense hub.

Lafayette and the Acadiana, Bayou and Southwest regions of Louisiana anchor a helicopter industry that has served the offshore oil-and-gas, aerospace training and emergency services sectors for decades. PHI Inc. (headquartered in Lafayette), ERA Helicopters LLC (headquartered in Lake Charles) and Bristow Group Inc. provide extensive, state-of-the-art helicopter services throughout Louisiana, the Gulf of Mexico and other global regions. In addition, AvEx – Aviation Exteriors Inc. – is a global leader in aviation exterior painting services and is based at the Acadiana Regional Airport in New Iberia, La.

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