Aerospace and defense contractor Bell Textron, Inc. is offering voluntary separation packages to employees in Fort Worth and Amarillo as the company prepares to build a new attack helicopter for the U.S. Army. Experts say the move could be a sign that it is transitioning work as its other contracts end.
Bell’s newest contract is for the tilt-rotor V-280 Valor, which will eventually replace the UH-60 Black Hawk, and could be worth more than $70 billion for the company over the next decade. Winning the Army contract was huge for Bell — experts previously told the Fort Worth Report that the company’s life was on the line if it didn’t win.
At the same time, the company offered a voluntary separation program to a “limited number” of employees, including management and non-management employees in the Fort Worth and Dallas area and Amarillo, according to a published news report.
The company did not disclose how many or what roles were offered separations in a statement to the Fort Worth Report, but said the packages won’t be offered to pilots or engineers. The company says the move is necessary as it ramps up the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft program. Most employees that choose to accept a separation offer will leave the company by January.
“We must ensure our resources are aligned with our vision for the future of the business and the needs of our customers,” the statement said.
The company says it routinely assesses staffing requirements across Bell facilities and makes decisions “based on the current business environment and the global marketplace.”
The news of the separations doesn’t surprise Richard Aboulafia, managing director at Aerodynamic Advisory, a boutique aerospace and defense consultancy.
Bell’s existing contracts, building aircrafts such as the V-22 Osprey and AH-1Z Viper, are winding down. Developing the V-280 Valor needs a different mix of workers than those contracts, which were focused on manufacturing, Aboulafia said.
The V-280 Valor needs engineers, test pilots and others to ready the aircraft for service.
“But in terms of volume, manufacturing machinists and whatever else, those programs are ramping down,” Aboulafia said. “Sadly, they won’t be needed for most of this decade.”
Jerry McGinn, the executive director of the Baroni Center for Government Contracting at George Mason University, said work ebbs and flows on contracts.
“If a contract ends, they’re going to have less needs for workers (for) different skills, and they’re going to kind of shape their workforce that way,” McGinn said.
The first three to five years of a new contract like the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft program start with focus on development. Bell already spent a fair amount of time on initial design and engineering along with prototyping when competing for the contract.
“I think you’re going to have lots of engineering needs and more kinds of production needs in the medium term,” he said.
Bell didn’t answer questions from the Fort Worth Report about how many employees the company plans to hire for the new contract. The company broke ground on a new $20 million, 37,775-square-foot building called the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft Drive Test Lab and is expected to finish by March.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @sbodine120.
At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.