The Evolution of Manufacturing at Bell

The beginning of an aircraft program marks a new age and a new impact on the world. Moments like a helicopter taking its first flight, the completion of a new mission or receiving certification are what drive our teams forward. Under the excitement and energy that those innovation moments evoke comes another layer to Bell’s powerful legacy – how we get things done. Setting an aircraft program up for success means enabling our manufacturing arm to efficiently and safely produce aircraft while our other teams are moving forward with flight testing. Both parts of the equation are needed, but our operations-centric side is less publicly transparent – until now.

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During Bell’s peak production period during the Vietnam War, our teams were producing 150 Hueys per month in addition to 50 other helicopters. Now, as Bell prepares to support the U.S. Army’s Future Vertical Lift program by offering platforms for the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) and the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) and pave the way for urban air mobility aircraft, rapid production is needed more than ever. To set the wheels in motion, we’ve already built an unmatched team of engineers, supply chain personnel and project leaders. They’ve established a rapid supply base to prepare for aggressive schedules and acquired the latest additive manufacturing machines to facilitate build methodology. To match its unprecedented nature, the team, led by longtime Bell employee Glenn Isbell, has even received a novel title: Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing Innovation.

But complete team alignment comes down to two distinct missions. The first is a Rapid Prototyping organization that will focus on accelerating the build of experimental components and aircraft. This will range from component technologies to concept demonstrators to initial prototypes. The second mission is to reduce our non-recurring costs and enabling production at higher volumes. This will be achieved by advancing our Manufacturing Readiness Levels in new technologies and helping to focus our designs of the next generation of products to achieve new levels of capability at cost points that are drastically reduced from current industry benchmarks. The team has already tackled new projects such as the APT experimental aircraft build, aircraft mockup designs and risk reduction part planning for future vertical lift and innovation aircraft.  The next step is to open the Manufacturing Technology Center later this year where the manufacturing processes for the next generation aircraft will be defined and transitioned to the future production factories.

Watch our future plan in action:

While our manufacturing continues to evolve with the help of our ingenious engineers, the purpose remains the same – to create novel coveted vertical lift products that support the world. Explore our Innovation to see what other great challenges Bell is taking on.

About Bell

Thinking above and beyond is what we do. For more than 80 years, we’ve been reimagining the experience of flight – and where it can take us.

We are pioneers. We were the first to break the sound barrier and to certify a commercial helicopter. We were a part of NASA’s first lunar mission and brought advanced tiltrotor systems to market. Today, we’re defining the future of on-demand mobility.

Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas – as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Textron Inc., – we have strategic locations around the globe. And with nearly one quarter of our workforce having served, helping our military achieve their missions is a passion of ours.

Above all, our breakthrough innovations deliver exceptional experiences to our customers. Efficiently. Reliably. And always, with safety at the forefront.

About Textron

Textron Inc. is a multi-industry company that leverages its global network of aircraft, defense, industrial and finance businesses to provide customers with innovative solutions and services. Textron is known around the world for its powerful brands such as Bell, Cessna, Beechcraft, Hawker, Jacobsen, Kautex, Lycoming, E-Z-GO, Arctic Cat, Textron Systems, and TRU Simulation + Training. For more information, visit: www.textron.com.

Certain statements in this press release are forward-looking statements which may project revenues or describe strategies, goals, outlook or other non-historical matters; these statements speak only as of the date on which they are made, and we undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements. These statements are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause our actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, changes in aircraft delivery schedules or cancellations or deferrals of orders; our ability to keep pace with our competitors in the introduction of new products and upgrades with features and technologies desired by our customers; changes in government regulations or policies on the export and import of our products; volatility in the global economy or changes in worldwide political conditions that adversely impact demand for our products; volatility in interest rates or foreign exchange rates; and risks related to our international business, including establishing and maintaining facilities in locations around the world and relying on joint venture partners, subcontractors, suppliers, representatives, consultants and other business partners in connection with international business, including in emerging market countries.