SINGAPORE: Bell Helicopter, a US-based commercial and military helicopter manufacturer, plans to strengthen and expand its presence in Southeast Asia including Malaysia from this year onwards.
Bell Helicopter Asia (Pte) Ltd managing director in Asia Pacific Sameer Rehman said the company is looking to sell a couple of its helicopter models to the private companies and military authorities in Malaysia as part of their fleet refurbishment or renewal plan.
The models include the new Bell 525 Relentless, Bell 505 Jet Ranger X and Bell 429 Global Ranger.
"Our intent in 2018 and beyond is to find a way to grow the market in Malaysia. We have been doing business with Malaysia for over 20 years. We were very successful in the first sale of Bell 505 in Malaysia," Sameer told NST Business in an interview during the Singapore Airshow 2018 recently.
For the Malaysian market, Bell Helicopter is interested to sell the Bell 525 to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) as well as the Bell 505, which can be used for transportation, military training as well as emergency medical services (EMS).
Sameer said the Bell 525, once certified, will be the world’s most advanced super medium fly-by-wire helicopter that would be an advantage for Malaysia to protect its vast landscape and territory.
“As the MMEA recognises the geopolitical situation brought on the Peninsular and on Borneo, we want to find a way to enhance their capability by offering them the Bell 525,” he said, adding that Bell Helicopter also plans to sell the 429 model to MMEA.
He said the Bell 429 model has found success with various police agencies worldwide such as the New York Police Department, the Turkish National Police, the Swedish National Police, the Royal Thai Police, the Philippine National Police and the Indonesian National Police.
The current Bell Helicopter models that are being used in Malaysia include the Bell 206, Bell 407 and Bell 429. The Bell 429 is being used by PLUS Helicopter Services Sdn Bhd.
Sameer said there is a huge growth opportunity for Bell Helicopter in Southeast Asia as the countries gear up to place regulations to support their para-public and paramilitary space.
Besides protecting the land and water territories, Sameer said the Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines are expanding its network of disaster assistance and recovery as well as helicopter EMS.
"I believe governments are spending more money on para-public and paramilitary type of campaigns to help their citizens. We are fraught with natural disasters like flood, typhoon, earthquake and volcano eruption.
"So helicopters come into big focus during time of need. Governments have recognized the EMS – that will continue to be the focus for Bell Helicopter moving forward,” Sameer said, adding that Bell Helicopter would offer training and services to Malaysia when the country starts developing the EMS market.
Bell Helicopter currently has a service centre in Singapore and its maintenance team travels to its clients in Asia Pacific.
The company also has partnership with authorised third party in various countries in the region to service its helicopters.
Meanwhile, Bell Helicopter Asia (Pte) Ltd general manager Chris Schaefer said currently the company’s clients in Malaysia are supported by the service centre in Singapore although there are future plans to open a new centre in Malaysia or partner with an authorised third party maintainence centre.
“Right now from the economies of scale perspective, it makes more sense to combine those resources in Singapore and then support the Malaysian customers,” he said, adding that Bell Helicopter has 14,000 parts kept in Singapore worth some US$36 million.