Bell Textron Canada will pilot an $800 million project to extend the life of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 85 CH-146 Griffons, but only 9 helicopters will land at the multinational’s Mirabel plant to undergo rejuvenation.
Several questions were left unanswered on Monday after a ceremony at the helicopter manufacturer’s facilities to confirm the contract award. It was not possible to get an idea of the economic benefits for Bell Textron Canada and the percentage of the work that will be carried out on Quebec soil.
The only certainty is that subcontractors established throughout the country will be entitled to their share of the pie. The Canadian subsidiary of the Texan multinational will extend the useful life of nine helicopters to get an idea of the steps that the subcontractors that will be selected will have to follow.
“The other 76 [hélicoptères] will be distributed to partners across Canada,” confirmed Bell Textron Canada President Steeve Lavoie at a press conference, along with Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne, as well as President and CEO of Aero Montréal. , Suzanne Benoît.
Therefore, Bell Textron Canada will be the prime contractor for the project. The CH-146 Griffon is a variant of the civilian Bell 412 EP. The company delivered 100 aircraft to the National Defense between 1995 and 1997. These helicopters are used in tactical transport missions, emergency response, and search and rescue operations.
Awarding the contract to Bell was practically a formality, as the company still owns the intellectual property rights to these devices.
“It allows us to do this (the upgrade) faster because the helicopters will be delivered between 2024 and 2028,” Champagne said to justify his government’s approach. “Lifetime will take us into the mid-2030s.”
Who will win the contracts?
The facelift of the helicopter will mainly concern the communication, navigation, and surveillance systems. Improvements also need to be made to the engines, manufactured by Pratt & Whitney. The multinational, which is present in Longueuil, in the southern suburbs of Montreal, should be there.
Subcontractors will be selected after calls for bids, Bell explained.
“They will be trained on how to do the Bell modifications and processes,” Marc Bigaouette, the company’s senior director of global fleet services, said in an interview with Press. “Bell will receive the funds (800 million) and will transfer them to the Canadian industry. »
In Quebec, Héli-Inter, based in Saint-Hubert, in the southern suburbs of Montreal, is certified to maintain 412 aircraft made by Bell Textron. His president, Frédéric Allard, hopes to see his company work. Yet few Quebec players are equipped enough to take on large-scale work, he believes. Therefore, these tasks are likely to be carried out outside the province.
“Alpine Aerotech (British Columbia) should take over most of the contracts,” Mr. Allard said in a telephone interview with Press. They are already official Bell suppliers for the 412. Eagle Copter (Calgary) should also be in the running. We will do it case by case. For major updates, we don’t have the infrastructure to do this. »
Bell Textron Canada has approximately 1,300 employees in Mirabel, including some 150 hires made in recent months. The company added maintenance activities to its service offering last year. Its Quebec workforce was already nearly 2,000 strong, but the end of the last decade was marked by a few waves of layoffs, causing the number of workers to plummet.
The CH-146 Griffon in brief
- Manufacturer: Bell Textron Canada
- Crew: two pilots and a mechanic
- Passengers: up to 12
- Autonomy: 656 kilometers
- Top speed: 260km/h
- Empty weight: 3,500 kilograms (7,715 lb)
- Number of civil helicopter deliveries made by Bell Textron Canada since it was established at Mirabel in 1986
Bell Textron Canada
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