India is fastest growing market for Bell Helicopter

October 22nd, 2008 - 12:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Oct 22 (IANS) After taking 52 years to sell its first 100 choppers in India, Bell Helicopter expects to sell its next 100 in less than five years as the country has emerged as an important market for the US company, a top official said.”India is our fastest growing market in the whole world,” said Bell’s director of communications Greg Hubbard, who was here for the civil aviation show last week.

“When we started our India office in 1995 we had only four percent of the market share; today we enjoy 52 percent market share,” Hubbard told IANS.

Bell sold its first helicopter in India in 1956 and delivered its 100th commercial aircraft to leading Indian infrastructure company Abir Infrastructure during the air show here.

“We have sold 17 helicopters in India this year, we expect to sell 22 next year and we expect to sell our next 100th one within five years,” Hubbard said.

“In India our growth rate is 15-17 percent while it is less than five percent in the US or Europe. Russia and Brazil are also growing fast, but the growth rate is lower than that in India,” he said.

According to the Bell executive, the global downturn has not affected its India operations; nor does the company expect it to do so in the future. “Unlike fixed wing aircraft, helicopters are utility vehicles and demand will always be there.”

Bell Helicopter, which is a subsidiary of Texas-based $13.2 billion multi-industry company Textron Inc, is also excited about supplying military helicopters to India.

“We will bid for the Indian Army’s 197 reconnaissance and surveillance helicopter programme by end of December and we are hopeful of bagging a large contract.”

Giving details of the Bell429 model that it unveiled at the air show, Hubbard said the company had adopted a unique approach while developing the model.

“We formed a panel of customers and asked them what features they wanted and during the designing process they participated in working out the trade-offs between various features,” he said.

“As a result, we ended up developing a very flexible model that can be easily customized. For example, it has a completely flat floor that helps in customizing to meet specific needs of customers,” he said.

The helicopter has a glass cockpit and digital controls designed to meet the latest safety requirements and is very quiet, he said.

Talking about training institutes and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) centres that Bell is planning to set up in India, Hubbard said: “We hope to select our Indian partners by early next year.”

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