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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bell Helicopter (Amarillo) to work on Kiowa copters

By Jim McBride
Bell Helicopter will begin performing cockpit conversions on the U.S. Army's Kiowa Warrior helicopter at its Amarillo plant later this month, a new mission for the facility that could lure more aircraft assembly jobs to the city, company officials confirmed Wednesday.
The overall impact on jobs at Bell's Amarillo plant is uncertain, but the plant already plans to hire more than 100 workers next year, Bell officials said.

In April 2009, the Army exercised a contract option that required Bell to convert one OH-58A cabin into a new OH-58D cabin. In May, the Army issued a sole-source contract to Bell to convert more cabins.

The older A models were largely unarmed scouts, but those are being fitted with modern technology and weaponry to serve as reconnaissance helicopters. The conversion program takes existing A model OH-58 aircraft and upgrades them to D models.

"We're forecasting to hire 140 people next year," said Roger Williams, a top executive for Bell's Amarillo plant, which employs about 1,100 workers. The plant now assembles V-22 Ospreys, "Huey" troop transport helicopters and AH-1Z attack helicopters.


Photo by Steve Douglass

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