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Jacinto Monge (left) celebrates the announcement of an order at European Rotors in Madrid, Spain. Bell Photo

Bell eyeing growth in European helicopter market with new MD

By Oliver Johnson | December 14, 2023

Estimated reading time 7 minutes, 11 seconds.

Jacinto Monge (left) celebrates the announcement of an order at European Rotors in Madrid, Spain. Bell Photo
Jacinto Monge (left) celebrates the announcement of an order at European Rotors in Madrid, Spain. Bell Photo

Bell is seeing “plenty of activity” in the European helicopter market, with the air medical and law enforcement sectors offering particular promise, according to the manufacturer’s recently-appointed managing director for the region.

“There’s plenty of activity at the moment in the marketplace, no question about it,” Jacinto Monge, appointed to the role in September, told reporters during a press conference. “We’ve seen a great rebound — 2022 was a great year, and I think 2023 will be a good year again. The market is back, there’s no question about it.”

Monge’s background is in engineering, in which he specialized in propulsion with rocket engines. Prior to becoming head of the European region for Bell, Monge was managing director of the manufacturer’s Asia-Pacific business. The vast region spanned China, Japan, Korea, India, Southeast Asia and Australia.

In comparing the two regions, Monge said there were a lot of similarities.

“From what I’ve seen so far, it’s equally challenging, equally diverse, [with] plenty of opportunities,” he said. “[Europe] is a big continent, with countries that have very different environments, regulatory constraints, very different cultures, [and] languages. So from that perspective, [Europe and Asia-Pacific] are actually pretty similar.”

The major difference between the two is that Europe is home to two indigenous major aircraft manufacturers in Airbus Helicopters and Leonardo.

“Asia was definitely more of a level playing field from my footprint standpoint,” said Monge. “But we do have a high quality, high technology product and we offer a great level of support.”

He was speaking during the recently-held European Rotors trade show, where Bell announced several sales, including two Bell 407GXis and one Bell 505 to JB Investments in Poland for private travel; and a 505 to an undisclosed customer in the Isle of Man.

The company also celebrated the delivery of a third air medical Bell 429 to Swiss operator Air Zermatt, which was on display at the Bell booth.

“Bell’s business in Europe is very exciting — there’s lots of variety,” said Monge. “I think we’ve done well over the last few years, but of course we want to do better. I think you’re going to see a variety of segments where I think we can make progress.”

In addition to the promise of the emergency medical services (EMS) and law enforcement sectors, Bell is “working the oil-and-gas piece” with the upcoming 525 Relentless super medium.

Unveiled at Heli-Expo in 2012, the 525’s long journey to certified aircraft appears to be almost complete. Monge said the final date for certification “depends on the regulator — and only the regulator,” but added the company was very confident it would be achieved “very soon.”

Validation for the type from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will be pursued immediately after the Federal Aviation Administration gives its approval. Monge said EASA has been involved with the 525 certification effort since the very beginning of the program.

“They are not new to the program — they know it and they understand it fairly well,” he said.

Fellow airframe manufacturer Airbus has experienced longer than anticipated delays in securing FAA validation of EASA certifications in recent years. Monge was asked whether Bell has any concerns about the length of the approval process for aircraft traveling in the opposite direction.

“We’re always hoping for great collaboration between the two authorities and we do our part, I think — but I think that’s a great question for EASA to answer and for the FAA to answer,” he said.

More broadly, Monge acknowledged that opportunities exist for Bell with the military/parapublic fleet renewal that’s taking place across much of Europe — particularly in the east.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for us in the Balkans and the rest of Eastern Europe, there’s no question about it,” he said. “I think we have products that address needs in the parapublic segment really well. . . . There’s a lot of product that is being grounded that was Russian origin and there’s a need for replacements.”

When asked about the U.K. market, Monge said it has been “a very good market” for Bell over the years, mostly on the single-engine side.

“I love the market there because there’s an aviation culture that is very genuine, and you find it in very few places around the world,” he said.

In addition to its service center in Prague, which offers maintenance, repair and overhaul services, customization, re-assembly, and delivery; the manufacturer’s European footprint includes the Bell Training Academy in Valencia, Spain; a supply center in Amsterdam, Netherlands; and rotor blade repair facility in Warminster, U.K.

Bell hosts around 200 pilots in Valencia for training each year. The academy is home to a Bell 429 Level D full flight simulator, which recorded 1,000 simulated flight hours in 2023.

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