We’re happy to have the chance to meet with Bell’s new CEO, Steeve Lavoie. We’ll take this opportunity to learn more about him and his vision for the private and corporate pilot market. Steeve welcomes us into his office, but quickly takes us to see the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X being built at the Mirabel factory, along with new autonomous drones. The rest of our interview takes place in a Bell 505 cockpit.
Steeve mentions the 505 has already achieved 13,000 hours of flight on all six continents. Over 200 units have been delivered, with strategic teams and demos being deployed across the world to increase awareness and foster client interest throughout the globe. After a series of announcements, the 505 is becoming increasingly versatile. Its cargo hook can carry up to 2,000 lb. It was recently awarded the High Altitude Operations certification, for 22,500 ft (and that’s pretty high!). I remember flying over the Yosemite National Park at 10,700 ft, and it felt like I was almost touching the sky. Flying at 22,500 ft must be mind-blowing!
Bell has been in business for 80 years. We’re pioneers. We broke the sound barrier and were part of NASA’s first moon landing. It’s only natural for us to share our experience and help the industry promote and design vertical lift technologies. The tilt-rotor experience we acquired over the past 20 years allowed us to design a first prototype, the Bell Nexus.
In early 2019, we launched the Bell Nexus with six tilt rotors. Once again, our expertise paid off. All six ducted fans used in the Bell Nexus were developed here in Mirabel by our R&D team. The goal is to provide an aircraft that’s powerful, but also silent and affordable for city areas. Using the tilt-rotor concept rather than conventional rotors also provides increased passenger safety. Imagine if we could replace the morning commute from the Montreal South Shore to Downtown with the new Bell Nexus. You’d go from a 60-minute drive to a 10-minute flight.
We’re also happy to be part of the development of the first Bell APT autonomous drones. Note from Mike: during our visit, the first two prototypes were in the employee cafeteria. While most people believe these units will be used for parcel delivery, Steeve explains these could also help improve emergency organ delivery. The drones averages speed of 100 miles per hour.
“We can agree the Bell 407 has helped us tremendously in reaching this kind of client, and after 20 years, we’re in excellent position. The next step for them being the twin engine, our Bell 429 unit is very popular. But the crown jewel many are looking forward to is the Bell 525. This new helicopter will feature many of the latest technologies developed by our Mirabel teams. Some of the technologies will likely become part of our current series in the future.”
Let’s say I find it easier to talk about our clients, our team and our products than myself. I’d say I’m fairly new to the helicopter industry, but I’ve always been passionate about the aeronautics field. Early in my career, I worked at Bombardier Aerospace for 23 years, including as Vice-President Industrialization. I intend on using my experience in the African and Chinese markets to help drive the helicopter sector forward.”
“I’ve been impressed by the private helicopter market in Canada. Our independent representative, Heli.Store, has been doing tremendous work. I hope I’ll have the chance to meet with these dedicated pilots very soon, and you can rely on Bell Canada to remain active in promoting this passion throughout Canada.”
Can you fly around the whole world by helicopter? Yes, you can. And to help you envision what this represents, I met with an experienced pilot who’s been to many, many places by helicopter.
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The other day, a friend was telling me that most of the time he flew with his wife, it would end in a dispute. And that’s no fun!
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