Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bell Helicopter sees increase in production

OZARK—Bell Helicopter’s work with Northrop Grumman on an unmanned helicopter program has elevated the Ozark facility’s production numbers this year, and workers have completed more than 600,000 hours without a reportable injury, according to the company.

Barry Ford, general manager for Bell Helicopter in Ozark, said the facility is working with Northrop Grumman on the Fire Scout program, which is an unmanned helicopter that supports special operations for ship-based unmanned systems  for the U.S. Navy.

Ford said the workforce has remained consistent over the past year with more than 120 employees. He said facility workers have completed four U.S. Air Force TH-1H aircraft for use in the training command at Fort Rucker and refurbished a UH-1H aircraft for the Maine Department of Forestry.

Ford said the facility, which performs maintenance, repair and overhaul for the full light and medium Bell Helicopter product line, is likely best known for its Huey II program.

“We take the airframe of the UH-1H and update the drive train system, increase the max grow weight and complete other modifications as necessary to upgrade the aircraft into a Huey II,” Ford said.

“This program is the only OEM recognized and supported UH-1H modification on the market today.”

According to its website, Bell Helicopter is a wholly owned subsidiary of Textron and produces commercial and military, manned and unmanned vertical-lift aircraft and revolutionary tiltrotor aircraft.

In addition to Ozark’s operations in Alabama, Ford said Bell operates a spare parts distribution center in Daleville that supports Fort Rucker and Pensacola flight training operations and a research facility in Huntsville for unmanned aerial vehicle operations.

The company is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas.

Ford said the Ozark facility has received both federal and company awards. He said the facility was the only Part 145 repair station in the state to be awarded the Federal Aviation Administration Maintenance Technician Program Award of Excellence “Gold Award” for demonstrating a commitment to aviation safety with a minimum of 50 percent of Ozark’s eligible employees receiving an individual AMT certificate for the calendar year.

Ford said Bell Ozark also received the Bell Helicopter President's Award for a perfect safety record this year.

As of Oct. 15, Ford said the facility worked three calendar years and more than 600,000 hours without a single reportable injury.

Ford said the company worked swiftly to mitigate the impacts of the partial government shutdown on its customers and business.

“Our challenges are not dissimilar to the challenges of other OEMS. ... The uncertainty in Washington certainly is a factor in managing our business,” he said.

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