Bell Defends Civil Tiltrotor Government Funding
A Bell Helicopter spokesman denies that the company did anything improper in accepting approximately $300 million in U.S. Defense Department independent research and development (IRAD) funds to develop the Model 609 civil tiltrotor program. Bell announced last month that it is in the process of selling the 609 outright to co-development partner AgustaWestland. Terms of the deal were not disclosed and it remains subject to regulatory approval. Bell and AgustaWestland have spent nearly $1 billion on the program, which has fielded just two prototype aircraft in 15 years. The military’s contribution came to light last week in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Bell’s Bill Schroeder told AIN that IRAD 609 spending was “fully compliant” with Pentagon guidelines. IRAD funds are used to decrease the “learning curve” related to developing new spin-off military and civil technologies, Schroeder said. Bell and Boeing build the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor for the Marines and the Air Force. Although AW will own the 609, Bell said last month that it will continue to provide engineering and program support and manufacture key components for the aircraft, which is now labeled the AW609.