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The company said Wednesday that the V 280 Valor tiltrotor had achieved “100 percent build completion” and it is now preparing for its flight testing phase this fall. Armed Forces.
“The V 280 has been designed to provide our military with the speed, range and operational productivity needed to complete any mission successfully and outmatch every opponent,” Bell said in a news release.
A company spokeswoman said an official date for the first flight hasn’t been set.
Like the V 22 Osprey, which is already manufactured in Amarillo, the V 280 is tiltrotor a fixed wing aircraft with rotors that can be positioned like helicopter blades to take off and hover, then swivel down to become propellers.
The V 280 is supposed to be less expensive and have longer range than the V 22, which is used by the Marines Corps.
Bell developed the V 280 after it was selected in 2014 to be part of the Army’s Joint Multi Role Technology Demonstration program. The program is a precursor to the Future Vertical Lift initiative, an estimated $100 billion program to replace up to 4,000 aircraft.
“The real news would come if someone would give them a production order,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at the Teal Group,
a Virginia based consulting firm.
“First they have to win the JMR TD competition. Then, even if they don’t, there’s a chance the Marines would decide it would be a great V 22 follow on. But both of those events are probably a decade away.”
Bell faces competition from Sikorsky Boeing, which is developing the SB 1 Defiant, an aircraft that looks more like a traditional helicopter but with a rear mounted propeller for extra thrust. Army.
For one, the V 280’s engines stay pointed horizontally instead of rotating up and down with the propellers like the V 22.
The engine design allows the V 280 to have side doors and a door gunner, which the Army prefers, and eliminates an issue of hot exhaust being blasted onto landing areas.
The Amarillo economy would benefit from future V 280 production.
The Amarillo Chamber of Commerce lists Bell as the 10th largest employer in Amarillo. It has averaged about 1,000 jobs over the last decade. There are currently about 800 employees in Amarillo with an additional 230 contracted workers, a Bell spokeswoman said.
According to earnings reports, Bell revenues were up $21 million in the second quarter of 2017
Bell delivered 14 H 1’s and four V 22’s in the quarter compared to nine H 1’s and six V 22’s in the second quarter of 2016. It also delivered 21 commercial helicopters compared to 24 the year prior.