It appears Bell Helicopters Canada is a shoo-in to win a second Coast Guard helicopter contract because other manufacturers won’t be submitting bids.
According to the Canadian Press, the Bell 412 is likely to be the next medium-lift Coast Guard helicopter. Bids close May 27 but CP says Agusta Westland, Sikorsky and Airbus Helicopters Canada have all “signalled they won’t be submitting bids.”
Assuming the scenario plays out as CP predicts, the 412s will join 15 Bell 429 “light-lift” helicopters in the Coast Guard fleet. Bell got that $172 million contract for the 429s on Monday. It was also the only bidder in that competition.
It’s not clear if the other companies’ refusal to bid on the medium-lift contract is related to the controversy that surrounds light-lift contract.
Airbus Helicopters pulled out of the light-lift competition and filed legal action against the government claiming Bell was given an unfair advantage in the bidding because of a weight exemption granted by Transport Canada for the 429. The Bell aircraft has a gross weight of 3,400 kg. but the weight limit for “light” helicopters in Canada is 3,175 kg. Transport Canada gave Bell an exemption on the weight Airbus claims that gave the 429, which is built at Mirabel Airport in Quebec, an unfair advantage.
That suit is still before the courts and Airbus said in a statement that it “deeply regrets” the decision of the federal government to go ahead with the contract even though it may be overturned by the court.