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Friday, August 20, 1999:

Bell sees rapid growth in India helicopter market

NEW DELHI, India ( Reuters ) - Bell Helicopters Textron is expecting a sharp rise in helicopter sales in the Indian market because of an increase in awareness of the potential uses of rotary wing aircraft, a senior company official said on Friday.

``We expect to sell seven to 10 helicopters in the next two years,'' Bill Ringer, Bell's chief representative officer in India, the Philippines, Hongkong and Macau, told Reuters.

Ringer said Bell could tap the tremendous potential for helicopters in areas such as emergency medical services, news coverage, fire-fighting and law enforcement.

He said another area where sales could take off was helicopter tourism. ``An emerging middle class wants to see scenic sites.''

India's diverse terrain and varied weather conditions meant helicopters were ideally suited for a wide number of uses, Ringer said.

He said Bell's operations had already grown enormously in the last few years. The company has 42 helicopters operating in India currently, up from just one four years ago.

But he added a friendly regulatory environment was needed for the helicopter industry to grow.

Currenly, the government clubs together both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft operations, which officials say tends to hamper the growth of the helicopter market.

Bell's main customers in India at the moment are the different arms of the government and commercial operators.