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Tue, Dec 14, 2004

Bell Helicopter Readies For V-22 Full Rate Production

Adding New Jobs At Fort Worth And Amarillo

Bell Helicopter Chief Executive Officer Michael Redenbaugh announced Monday the company is moving its V-22 Program Office from Fort Worth to Amarillo, TX. "We're doing this now in anticipation of the eventual need to ramp up for full rate production on the V-22," he said.

In this process Bell will be establishing a number of new positions throughout its Dallas/Fort Worth Centers of Excellence as well as its Amarillo Military Assembly & Integration Center.

"Many of these positions will require hiring new people while some professional and technical skill sets important to V-22 production will involve moving some existing positions from Bell facilities in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to Amarillo," Redenbaugh said, adding  "we have always planned to increase our employee base as much as necessary to successfully meet the demand of producing upwards of 48 aircraft per year at full rate.

"In order to ensure the success of our V-22 manufacturing operations it was clear to us that we need to move our program engineers and managers to be co-located where the aircraft are built," Redenbaugh said.
"This is a wonderful opportunity not only for all the folks being transferred to Amarillo, but will be of great benefit to the manufacturing process by having all members of our V-22 team located at one place. The High Plains of the West Texas Panhandle is a great place to build aircraft and raise families."

The combination of a productive workforce and additional facilities paid for by the Amarillo Economic Development Council led Bell to grow the Amarillo facility. In addition to the V-22 Osprey, Amarillo will be responsible for the Marine Corps' AH-1Z/UH-1Y helicopter upgrade as well as other military programs including the Bell Eagle Eye unmanned aerial vehicle and the proposed Bell 407 ARH for the US Army's Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter Program. At full rate production on these programs, the Amarillo facility would deliver around 100 aircraft per year and employ more than 1,700 people.

Bell has also invested $300 million in a "Composite Center of Excellence," in Fort Worth and a "Machining Center of Excellence," in Grand Prairie.

To provide a pool of qualified work force candidates, the Bell Employee Training Alliance-including Amarillo College and several regional employment agencies-offer courses in shop mathematics, quality procedures, composite materials repairs and metalworking. About half the graduates are hired by Bell. For successful applicants, the first-phase training is followed by more than 80 hours of training in mechanical and electrical assembly.

Sized for V-22 full-rate production, the Amarillo facility includes a 170,000 square foot assembly building and a 72,000-foot flight hangar. A 113,300 square foot expansion is now complete, and will initially house both V-22 and H-1 assembly lines. An expansion of the current production flight hanger will be completed in 2005.



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