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This article was Originally Published on Oct 01, 2002 in Volume: 1  Issue: 5

Bell Helicopter Textron

Interview with Terrence R. Dake

Senior Vice President US Government & International Military Business

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Terry Dake is senior vice president, U.S. Government & International Military Business for Bell Helicopter Textron, a $1.4 billion-in-sales, leading producer of commercial and military helicopters, and pioneer of the revolutionary tiltrotor aircraft. He is responsible for all business with the U.S. government—primarily military—as well as Bell’s foreign military business. Current programs include the V-22 Osprey and the H-1 Upgrade of U.S. Marine gunships and utility helicopters.

A helicopter pilot with a military background, Dake served thirty-four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, was President Reagan’s helicopter pilot, and ultimately achieved the rank of general. His last position on active duty was the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.

Q: Bell has a long history of producing products for the military, like the Huey, Cobra, Kiowa, and now the V-22 and H-1 Upgrade aircraft. But the U.S. military is currently seeking contractor services for legacy aircraft in supply, maintenance and other areas. What are Bell’s plans to compete for such business?

A: There is a robust market for logistics support of our new and legacy products. Initially, however, our ability to compete in this area was limited by an organizational inability to economically deploy tech reps to military flight lines. That deficiency was corrected when we set up Bell Aerospace Services Inc., which now dispatches tech reps to flight lines in North Carolina and California. We are also bidding on other Air Force and Army contracts, and are preparing teaming arrangements to enhance our contract-winning ability. This is a growing line of business for Bell.

Q: What is the current status of the V-22 and the H-1 program today?

A: The picture has changed dramatically over the last year. The V-22 is flying at all three locations, Paxtuxent River, Edwards AFB and [at Bell’s test flight center in] Amarillo, Texas, and is doing very well.  Eventually we will have eight V-22 aircraft flying in the flight test program. By the end of the year we will have five with an additional three added next year. We continue to build V-22s at a rate of about 11 aircraft a year. We have improved the nacelle design so that it is better than ever and we have addressed all the issues raised in OPEVAL or any of the board reports that were written in the wake of the mishap in the winter of 2000 [a crash that killed four crew members]. The Marine Corps remains in strong support of this aircraft and we have leaders in Congress who are V-22 supporters. So, while there are still several milestones to be reached in the way of costs—we are much better off than a year ago.

The H-1 program has been re-baselined, so we are on a good funding profile that allows Bell and the customer to achieve our common goal—two great new aircraft for the Marine Corps. With all five EMD [engineering manufacturing development] aircraft now at Patuxent River in the flight-test program, the H-1 program is poised to push forward. Improvements to the [aircrafts’] yoke and hydraulics, indicated by flight testing, have been made. The first AH-lZ with an integrated glass cockpit—the Z-3—is flying now. It flew 1.5 hours the very first time that it lifted into the air. That is really good. The first flying UH-14 has logged 96.9 hours of flight time and will be joined in the air by the second UH1-Y soon. Our challenge now is to get the aircraft through the test program on cost and on schedule. We have a great Bell team that is going to make that happen.

Q: Much has been written lately on the problems with the international military market. What opportunities does Bell see in that arena?

A: There are many opportunities in the international market place. The truth is the customers are getting more demanding in what they want for their investment.  Additionally, governments are wanting more in the way of off-sets from the selected manufacturer. None of that is suspect in any way; it just makes the development of responses to requests for proposals more complex. Once a company [such as ours] recognizes and incorporates that kind of thinking into their programs, there are potential customers all over the world.

We have two great products for competing in the international marketplace in the AH-1Z and UH-1Y. These aircraft offer state-of-the-art performance; 84 percent parts commonality, reducing spares storage; and pricing below or competitive with other similar aircraft.  Further, many nations are long-time operators of earlier Bell products, thus reducing pilot and maintenance training requirements.

Additionally, we see great opportunities for our UAV, the Eagle Eye. This product has all the attributes of a tiltrotor and has easily deployable size for use by field captains and commanders. The system has proven its capability in extensive field tests. The Eagle Eye system has great potential for Bell. Once we have demonstrated the reliability of the V-22, I fully expect that the international community will be requesting this type of capability. The V-22 and Eagle Eye are just the beginning of a series of tiltrotor products that will be entering the military market.

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