Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Wednesday announced the company will build its new SLS helicopter line at Lafayette Regional Airport. The project will create 115 new direct jobs averaging more than $55,000 per year, plus benefits, while Bell will invest $11.4 million in equipment and tooling for the plant. Louisiana Economic Development officials estimate the aerospace project will result in another 136 new, permanent indirect jobs, for a total of more than 250 new jobs in Acadiana.
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, according to the company. Fort Worth-based Bell announced in June that it planned to re-enter the SLS market.
Bell Helicopter selected Louisiana for the new facility after a highly competitive site-selection process in which several states were seriously considered.
The SLS, or Short Single Light, helicopter is a contemporary version of the aircraft created by the company more than 50 years ago as the JetRanger, Bell said. It is a five-seat, single-engine, turbine helicopter. Bell Helicopter 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,” Garrison said in a news release. “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.” Bell Helicopter is a wholly owned subsidiary of Textron Inc. – Robert Francis