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Jul
03
2022

BELL HELICOPTER AND THE CITY OF A HUNDRED SPIRES

Posted 35 days ago ago by Admin

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There is a unique city in the heart of Europe that is nicknamed the “City of a Hundred Spires.” This magical city allows one to get lostin the labyrinth of its narrow streets in the inspiring old city center and enjoy the breathtaking views while standing on its beloved Charles Bridge. Prague is  a romantic, ancient city, but it’s also vibrant, successful, and cosmopolitan.

Yet, the skies of Prague don't just display its amazing church spires, but also contain a great deal of aircraft flying in and out of the airport as Prague is where Bell Textron has  offices in Europe located at the Prague Vaclav Havel International Airport (LKPR). It’s where the only Bell owned service facility in Europe is located.


NOT JUST CHURCH BELLS


In Prague, every street, landmark and building has an inspiring story, a historical background and it is no different with their airport.
 
On April 5,  1937 Prague's airport opened, then known as Prague-Ruzyně Airport. On that day they welcomed their first two airplanes. A Douglas DC-2 landed at 9:00 a.m from Slovakia. An hour later, a flight landed, coming from Vienna and then took off for Berlin. In this first year of operation 13,462 passengers passed through the airport. Today, this airport handles over 15 million passengers annually.

Bell Textron Prague, established in 2010, is the OEM-owned service center in Europe providing services to a variety of Bell helicopter operators.
 
Jaroslav Hajecek, aftermarket sales manager, says "Our services include new helicopter completion, in-service helicopter maintenance and services, and component level maintenance for customers worldwide. Additionally, our facility provides engineering services and business jet and helicopter handling services. Coupled with Rotor Blade UK, Bell Amsterdam Distribution Center and Bell Training Center in Valencia, Spain, with a full-motion Bell 429 simulator, our customers receive a complete portfolio of services for their helicopters in the region."

ONE-STOP SHOP

Bell Textron Prague provides three primary services in its center.

First, is a completion and delivery center for Bell helicopters being delivered to customers in Europe and surrounding regions. Vlastimil Čepička, the general manager of Bell Textron Prague, says, "This completion can vary from pure reassembly of the helicopter to full customization, which means receiving what we call a “green ship” (the primer coating was historically green) and then equipping the base aircraft with customizing kits per customer specification and a final painting of the helicopter."

Dream your life in colors they say, or in this case dream your helicopter in the perfect shade of your favorite color. When speaking of colors and painting Čepička points out that the paint booth at their facility is one of the most modern of its kind in Europe and can receive even their largest helicopter: the Bell 525. The customizing kits include a variety of items from full VIP and corporate interior fittings, through various missions equipment, and also down to USB charging ports in the cockpit and the passenger cabin.

Moving on, Čepička explains that the second area of their services include helicopter maintenance, repair, and overhaul for both scheduled and unscheduled inspections and repairs. "Our facility provides OEM maintenance services for Bell 206, 407, 429, 412, 505 and also Agusta-Bell 206/412. These services include all aspects of maintenance activities from simple inspections to complex overhauls. Included in the MRO business is a very important part of secondary customizing for in-service helicopters. This involves retrofits/modifications and upgrades of existing in-service helicopters. As with new ships, this includes a variety of items from cockpit retrofits to charging ports," Čepička clarifies.

The last, but surely not least of their services is component repair and overhaul. Čepička elaborates that they have the capability to work on customer aircraft components as well as making their facility a one-stop shop for customers. "Customers do not need to contact other facilities, all is done under one roof at Bell Textron Prague,” he says. “Of course, some components still have to be sent out to our partners for specialized maintenance or repairs, however Bell Textron Prague takes care of the administration and the customer therefore has one point of contact, making the process smooth, effective, and transparent."  He then elaborates that  they are currently fully capable for component level maintenance on the Bell 429 (they are the only Bell 429 approved facility in Europe for components) and the Bell 412. In the second half of this year, they are finalizing Bell 206/407/505 capability.

ASSEMBLED AND READY FOR FLIGHT

Maintenance is a necessary and important part of Bell’s services; how long it takes to get the aircraft back into the sky depends on the maintenance needed at that time. Just how quickly can they get a new helicopter assembled and ready to fly?

"Generally the helicopter build cycle is driven by individual parts and components lead times. So it is difficult to provide an exact figure, but it is safe to say that for example if you order a Bell 429 today, you will receive your aircraft in 12 months. That is due to the orders of aircraft from customers at the present moment. The actual physical build of the helicopter is several months provided all components are in stock. The build of course contains the “green ship” as well as the specific customer-selected customizing options," Hajecek clarifies.

Still, what is a ready-to-fly helicopter without a pilot? Hajecek addresses this issue, "We are happy to say that we do have a test pilot. Indeed, he is based at Bell Textron Prague. Stanislav Tarasovic is a very experienced pilot with an excess of 1,1000 flying hours. His experience comes from both the military as well as the EMS environment. Stanislav is an amazing personality and his customer focus and both pilot/technical expertise are legendary. We are fortunate to have such an amazing test pilot in Europe." The Bell Textron Prague team also utilizes the services of their instructor pilots from the Bell training academies in  Spain and the United States.

Looking to the future, Bell Textron Prague has many prosperous goals planned. "Our plans focus on growing in-service helicopter MROs, as well as growing  retrofit/modification/upgrade services. Further we are planning to extend our services by creating a PART 147 training capability through extending our Bell Training Academy activities in Europe with commercial and pilot training in Valencia, Spain, to type-rated technician training in Bell Prague," says General Manager Čepička.

Their primary customers include VIP, corporate, and private customers as well as government fleets in the EMEA region. Their vision is to provide these customers OEM-level services in the heart of Europe.

The city of Prague with its unique charm isn't becoming just a successful global tourist destination, but together with the Bell Textron Prague Center it is also creating a successful place in the world of aviation.

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