Bell Helicopter’s new assembly plant for its upcoming Short Light Single rotorcraft is open in Lafayette, Louisiana, the company announced Thursday. Based at Lafayette’s regional airport, the 82,300-square-foot leased hangar will house assembly of Bell’s 505 Jet Ranger X. Bell chose the site in 2013 and broke ground a year ago with plans to hire about 115 employees there. Meanwhile, the helicopter had its first test flight towards certification in November at Bell’s Quebec facility. Deliveries are slated to start in 2016, and the company said it now has more than 350 letters of intent from buyers around the world.
The new Jet Ranger is a five-seat, single-engine, multi-mission helicopter powered by a Turbomeca Arrius 2R engine with FADEC. It can fly up to 360 nm at a cruise speed of up to 125 knots, according to Bell. “We are excited to have successfully reached this milestone of the facility opening, and are proud to share in this moment with our customers, employees, suppliers and the Lafayette community,” said Paul Watts, general manager of Bell’s Lafayette facility. “This advances us one step closer to production and delivery of this aircraft.”