Claire Gillman

Bell Helicopter: Changing The Way The World Flies

“The V-280 will be a medium utility, attack, combat search and rescue aircraft. It seats 11-14 passengers, is self-deployable up to 2,100 nautical miles, can lift over 10,000 pounds and cruise at 280 miles per hour. To have that content and capability in the fleet — whether military, international, or commercial — the V-280 will change the way the world flies.”

The Bell V-280 Valor has the capability to transform the battlefield and save the lives of our soldiers, boasting “twice the speed, twice the range of current helicopters.” This next-generation tiltrotor aircraft exemplifies modern technology, its speed, range, payload and operational agility unmatched by any other helicopter platform. Designed to reduce weight and lower total lifecycle and support costs, the V-280 Valor’s mission is to improve warfighers’ battlefield productivity and operational reach. Jeff Josselyn is the leader of the V-280 Assembly Team.

Tell me about the V-280 Valor. What’s its background?

jeff-josselyn.jpgJeff Josselyn: The V-280 Valor is Bell Helicopter’s submission for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program. The program will replace all aging UH-60 Blackhawks and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.

Depending on what annual contract we are looking into, there are roughly two to four thousand units to be replaced. Basically, the UH-60 Blackhawk and AH-64 Apache are medium utility and attack aircrafts. You are talking technology from the 1970s. I flew the H-60 in the Navy. It is steam gauges, aluminum structure, heavy and bulky. The H-60 is great. It brought me home every single day, but what we are going to build will allow our armed forces to operate at speeds and ranges required in future fights and survive and win against very capable adversaries.

My dad always told me helicopters do not really fly; they beat the air into submission. Helicopters vibrate and shake; they are bulky, noisy and loud. If you have a critical care patient needing to get somewhere in a hurry, you do not want to attempt sticking an IV while the whole aircraft vibrates. With the V-280, when the tiltrotor is in the air; it is smooth with the props rotated forward in airplane mode. It is like riding on a commercial airline with commercial airliner speeds. Literally, we are going to save lives with this aircraft.

We ask our military customers in the fleet about their issues with the V-22 and what they would like to see done differently. Then, we are going to engineers that have retired from Bell and are asking, “On all of those cocktail napkins, that you said woulda, coulda, shoulda, or would have been nice if we could have done this…” and we are integrating all of that experience. You take that content and pair it with all that we are learning with the 525 Relentless, the 335,000 hours of V-22 fleet flight time, our decades of tiltrotor technology experience, and you have the V-280.

The V-280 will be a medium utility, attack, combat search and rescue aircraft. It seats 11-14 passengers, is self-deployable up to 2,100 nautical miles, can lift almost 10,000 pounds and cruise at 280 miles per hour. To have that content and capability in the fleet would change the way our Army fights.      

Why do you believe V-280 Valor will end up in the Smithsonian?

Jeff Josselyn: This V-280 here in Amarillo is Ship One, the very first V-280. It will blow away all the record books; it will do amazing things. Currently, the predictions Bell is forecasting are above and beyond anything we currently have anywhere in the world.

When you walk into the Smithsonian, you see the aircraft that changed the course of powered flight. The Voyager that flew around the world is on display; you have the Wright Flyer; you have the Bell X-1.  You can see from the Wright Flyer that made the first manned flight, through the X-1, the first aircraft to break the speed of sound, the leap-ahead moments that have fundamentally changed flight. I firmly believe you will see the V-280 alongside those legendary aircraft one day. It will be the first aircraft to take off vertically and exceed 300 miles per hour. This is truly that next incremental milestone in aviation.

Tell me about the Joint Multi-Role Demonstrator and the Future Vertical Lift program- What will set you apart in the competition?

Jeff Josselyn: The Joint Multi-Role Demonstrator is the Army’s nomenclature for what we are doing. Joint Multi-Role equals one aircraft that performs multiple different functions- utility for troops, attack for gunships, combat search and rescue- or that is the “multi-role”. “Joint” refers to joint services- Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. What we are building in Amarillo right now is called a “technology demonstrator”. The requirements will continue to evolve with the Department of Defense (DOD) . We are building this aircraft as part of a process that informs requirements for the DoD and reduces risk for the Future Vertical Lift effort.  

Herb Kelleher is a phenomenal businessman; he owns Southwest Airlines. He standardized his fleet. All they fly is 737s. Now, Southwest only has to train pilots and maintainers on one airframe. It is genius. If we can standardize the fleet through parts, support, training and flying, think about what that does for cost perspective, efficiency rate, and readiness rate.

We intend to demonstrate the same types of efficiencies can be realized with the V-280.  The next generation tiltrotor is designed with affordability in mind. You can see a future V-280 tiltrotor fleet that includes attack variants, utility variants, MEDEVAC configurations, all based on the same framework. We are using advanced tooling, digital enablers, and techniques that remove cost, weight and complexity from the aircraft. This all adds up to an extremely flexible aircraft that will provide unmatched speed, range, payload, agility, survivability and endurance, all at an affordable cost.

Why strive for simplicity, especially considering the difficulty in achieving simplicity?

Jeff Josselyn: The Army wants one platform that can be modularly re-configured depending on the mission capability set, or requirements. That is why our team likes to say we are building a truck. In that truck, you can put anything into the back. You can put seats, weapons, rescue litter bays, and/or medical support staff. Basically, we are building a delivery vehicle that the customer can configure according to the requirements that they will define.

This simplicity also translates into advantages in the multi-domain battles of the future.  It has the overall effect of reducing our military’s footprint in the battlefield, and allows our future forces to exert control over air and land.    

It also reduces requirements for forward deployment. It reduces your aircraft maintenance and part count. Now, instead of having parts for multiple aircraft, you have a standardized set of parts. This has a cumulative effect of pushing the cost per unit down while at the same time increasing capability.

Bell_V-280_team_2.jpgWhat is the V-280 team?

Jeff Josselyn:  I come from a military background in a crew concept environment. Your team, everybody’s lives were in each other’s hands. You relied on each other for the entire duration of a mission. That is absolutely synonymous with what we are doing here.


The team started as a very small design team. They established requirements and determined what we wanted to do, what the aircraft was going to look like. As that matured, they started bringing in airframe structural designers, systems designers, dry train designers. They pulled from the very best of 525, V-22, H-1 and our technology disciplines.

After bringing the very small team together, they took them off-site. They relocated out of the main plant, basically put them in a think tank with no walls, and said ‘figure it out’. They were able to cross-pollinate disciplines and work together to come up with solutions that were integrated. We were able to work together and come up with solutions. It enabled us to be extremely efficient and get the results that we needed.  

That quickly evolved into a small procurement team. Bell found multiple partners — IEI for cell content, Spirit for the fuselage, Eaton, Globe, Lockheed Martin for their instrumentation content. There are 12 investing teammates on what we call “Team Valor”. These are premiere aerospace companies who are equally committed to fielding the new technologies our  service men and women need, much sooner than 2035. Together we can challenge the acquisition cycle and deliver on the capabilities overmatch our Soldiers deserve so they won’t have to fight a fair fight.   

After we brought those partners together, it was time for us to actually start building parts and bringing those parts to Amarillo. I am extremely proud to say this aircraft is being built in Amarillo. Traditionally, it would have been built in the X-works facility, our research and development facility in Fort Worth, but based on the demonstrated performance of our H-1, V-22, and 525, We won the program for manufacturing content here in Amarillo. This is due to our execution, our outside-the-box thinking and our get-it-done mentality.

For many of our customers, Amarillo is the face of Bell Helicopter Deliveries happen out of Amarillo. You could look at us as the end of the chain, but you might also view us as the point of the spear. Whatever problems we have with design or suppliers, we have no room for excuses. We have to execute and we have to deliver. That is what Amarillo does. If it means working seven days a week, through holidays or around the clock, we figure out how to get it done safely and how to perform.

What motivates your crew, or Bell’s Amarillo workforce, to work around the clock? Where does that passion come from?

Jeff Josselyn: A good portion of my crew is made up of military veterans. They have seen and they have done. Now, they look at what we are building on shop floor and say, “If I would have had that capability, I could have taken one more person out of danger, one more person to safety, executed one more mission, or stayed around a little longer.” That is the capabilities the V-280 brings, and that is why we are so passionate. We want to get this aircraft out to fleet as soon as possible. Nobody ever wants to fight a fair fight; that is what this technology will do. It is a game changer.

I also have members of my team that have never been in the military, but they have worked for Bell for ten years. They have built H-1s and V-22s.  Their passion is aviation. Every time we deliver an aircraft, we see it and hear it go though it’s pre-flight checks. The rotation, the roar, that unmistakable signature, it all represents another satisfied customer. We know that aircraft is the absolute best it can be; we know it will go out to defend our country and keep us safe at night. That is one other source of passion. Plus, who wouldn’t want to work on something as impressive as these unique and advanced military aircraft?  To all of us, this is why we are in aviation.  This is amazing.

Jenna [Tyler] has been phenomenal at bringing our military customers to Bell. The one I remember the most vividly is the visit with crewmembers from an embassy evacuation mission in the Middle East. The aircraft was shot up, but they did not lose a single life due to the amazing capability of the V-22. He said, “This aircraft is the reason I am here today and the reason I go home to my kids every night.” That motivates us internally. If the V-22 can do that, what we can do with the V-280? Every day, it is very, very easy to find motivation on shop floor.

One thing I love about Amarillo is the depth of talent, yet the community is family-centric. There are no egos on shop floor; everybody works together. In fact, I went dirt bike riding at the Canadian River last night with a couple of my guys and a couple of the V-22 guys. We have barbecues on a Sunday afternoons, just because we like each other. You cannot walk down shop floor without saying ‘hi’. If you do not say ‘hi’ to someone, they ask you what is wrong. We are a family — that is what Amarillo is.

Amarillo works differently. You just have to pick up a phone, ask for help, and people will stop what they are doing. That is why Amarillo has that get-it-done mentality. It is not about ego, it is not about your job. We work outside of our statement of work every single day. We cross-pollinate with dispatching, our mechanical, electrical, sheet-metal, and flight-test disciplines. We work outside of our boundaries. We break down our walls to get it done and make it happen. That is Amarillo — that is Amarillo greatness right there.

What does the “get-it-done” mentality look like practically?

Jbell3.jpgeff Josselyn: We originally forecasted 66,000 hours to build the V-280; we are probably going to come in 20,000 hours under that. That is a testament to the design, engineering, parts and process, but it is also a testament to the guys on shop floor.

For the very first time, on a demonstrating one-off aircraft, we are operating at 140% efficiency — unheard of for a technical demonstrator. That is because of the pride the crew has in this aircraft. They work through breaks, even though I would never ask them to. Most of my guys show up a half hour early. They know they are not getting paid for it, but they want to be ready to go, when the whistle blows they are on the aircraft. Then they work all the way to the bell. Just like a prizefighter boxing through the bell, or a guy running to first base, all the way through the bag, my guys give 140% percent from the beginning of their shift to the end every day. They are reliable. You count on them. That is Amarillo; it is passion.

What is the role of communication and feedback at Bell, and in building the V-280?

Jeff Josselyn: We have a very, very open communication team.

I want to point out Craig Jordan. Craig Jordan is based out of Fort Worth. However, in order to make this project successful, he is the very best at what he does, we have brought him up to Amarillo. Another phenomenal American is Brian Decker, my design engineer. He moved his entire family to Amarillo to help us liaise. If we come up with a problem, he drew the blueprint for it so he can go back and fix it.

When you are sitting in a cubicle at midnight trying to figure something out, it may work on a computer screen, but sometimes we cannot replicate it on shop floor. We cannot physically build it. One thing we have done differently with this team is we have brought all of our planners, inspectors, designers and engineers out of their cubicles and onto shop floor. If you look, their desks are right next to mine. We do not do anything via email. If we have an issue, we walk out to the aircraft and we collaborate, we discuss; when we leave, we have a path forward. That is the whole point of staying tactical, staying efficient, and leaning into the wind at all times.

Shannon Massey has given me an incredible team — the final piece of effective communication. My twelve guys from V-22, H-1, and 525, they built the first V-22s here in Amarillo. They are subject matter experts in subassemblies, cells, wings, systems provisions, installation and final assembly. They can look at the V-280 and fill what I call the ‘gray space’. If you have the blueprint and the as-built aircraft condition, they fill out the content and can say, “We looked at this on the V-22. This is what we learned from it, and this is how we draw on that unique tiltrotor experience to continually improve moving ahead.”  

How important is innovation, including an environment of flexibility and allowance of failure, at Bell?

Jeff Josselyn: We have phenomenal leadership structure all the way through our CEO, Mitch Snyder, and Textron CEO Scott Donnelly. This is their baby. They want us to do whatever it takes, including thinking outside the box.

Bell is traditionally a hard-tooled company. If you walk from the east end of the building to the west, you see steel structures everywhere. It is a monolithic facility; you bolt these things into the ground, and that is where they stay. It does not give you room for flexibility or adaptation. We cannot ebb and flow as our demand changes. In my opinion, one of the biggest leaps Bell has made in the last 50 years is moving toward a metrology based build. Basically, we can have holding fixtures that are allowed to move wherever they want. When we replace a part, we use very complex lasers and scanning software to locate the part; then drill it and verify for configuration and conformity.

With the V-280, Bell Helicopter is making a concerted effort to keep cost out of the aircraft.. The best way to accomplish this is through efficiencies - efficiencies with metrology, tooling, parts and with our structure. With the V-280, there is a five to 10 times reduction in part count, which then reduces our tooling count. If I can keep the part count down, if I can keep the aircraft simple, there are fewer things to buy and fewer things to install. There is a multiplier effect on an efficient aircraft that built safe, conforming, and low cost.

The process of “additive manufacturing” plays a role in increased performance and efficiency. In the military, when you deploy the aircraft you also send ten times as many parts because, especially when you are in remote areas of the world, you have to maintain the aircraft. As we get further advanced with additive manufacturing, we will be able to give our customers the opportunity to 3D print their own parts. Instead of taking warehouses of parts with you everywhere, you can take one 3D printer and the media to make the parts. You do not make that part until you actually need it. You are cutting down on warehouse requirements and transportation requirements. I cannot tell you how many times we airlifted a 150-pound part nonstop out to the fleet, because it was a critical dynamic component. If we had the capability of printing those parts onsite. Bell wants our customers to have the latest and greatest engineering content; content that will increase the overall readiness and capability of our fleet.

How did your experience lead you to this position, this opportunity?

Jeff Josselyn: I am fantastic at approving labor, and I’m fairly certain my first word was “airplane”. My grandfather flew for the civil air patrol in World War II; my father was in Vietnam. I ticked both of them off and joined the Navy.

When I was 12 years old, I met Commander Mike Coates. He was an STS Pilot from Riverside, California, where I was born and raised. I walked up to him and shook his hand. He just looked cool. He showed up in his flight suit with all of his patches. I said, “I want to be you. How do I be you?” He laughed, and I got the classic, “Do well in school. Go to the Naval Academy, be a jet pilot, fly the space shuttle.” When I was 12 years old, that was what I was going to do. and I did not waver from the time I was 12 until the time I was accepted at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Literally, I was the kid at 12 that would ride my bicycle to the airport to wash airplanes so somebody would take me out flying. I got my pilot’s license within a couple of days of my driver’s license. Without my mom knowing, I spent lots of time driving to the airfield and jumping out of airplanes.

Following the Naval Academy, I was fortunate to get a flight school spot. The rest is history. I got paid by the United States Government to fly the latest and greatest hardware. I was 22 years old, strapping myself into a $32 million dollar aircraft — I just stopped for a second. I looked around and said, “Are they really going to let me do this?” It was amazing. Aviation has always been a passion of mine. Manned flight is amazing, as are the things we can do with just a little ingenuity and the willingness to push boundaries.

Also, the camaraderie in the military. Through sports, we have all had teams; but I knew I wanted that higher level of team, where everybody pulls together for a common mission. I found that in the military; fast forward, I found that at Bell. That is why I am a Bell guy until they walk me out that door. I am a Bell Helicopter Amarillo guy. I love it.

After 10 years in the military, an incredible time with some of the best men and women in our country, I was unfortunately medically retired. Otherwise, I would still be doing it now. I absolutely loved what I did. After retiring from the military, I basically had a low in my life, because from the time I was 12 until the time I was 29, I had focused on one thing. Can you imagine spending your entire life training to be a doctor, becoming a doctor, and then never being allowed to practice? It was a really, really low point in my life. I was struggling to find my identity.

I was actually in Amarillo for a family member’s funeral when I ran into somebody who knew Krystal Holder, human resources partner at Bell. An hour later, I was in her office. I did not have a resume; I did not have anything except my military transcripts. I was fortunate to be given an offer. I called my wife, who was from this area and did not really like California, to ask her what she thought. By the time I returned to California, she was packing. We moved here two weeks later. I started at Bell Helicopter only two weeks after the funeral.

What attracted me to Bell was walking in through the east side of Building 5. You see the polished floors and the helicopters up there, the AH1Z, the UH-1Y, the V-22- literally the best rotorcraft and tiltrotor aircraft in the world. Then I saw the workforce- the engaged and empowered workforce- the attention to detail, the team spirit… I could go on and on about Amarillo. I bought in. In fact, Krystal Holder said, “You just took the first offer and signed.” I do not even think I read the paperwork. I was 100% bought in from the start. That has only increased. Now, I am blessed to be working on the world’s most advanced tiltrotor with the world’s best team in the entire aviation industry in the best town in the best facility.

Any final thoughts?

Jeff Josselyn: To close, I told you that after I got out of the military there was a hole in my life. There was a very low point when I was struggling to find my identity. I moved to Amarillo, Texas. I am a surfer; I grew up 10 minutes from the ocean, I was in the Navy. I found myself in the middle of the country, landlocked, the furthest I could be from any water. It was a challenge, it was a struggle, but after only being here a day and a half, I came home and told my wife, “This is a God thing.”

We are here for a reason. I love my job, and we have not turned back since. You can go into the whole Amarillo piece about the community, the diversity, the church, the friendliness, no traffic — I keep being reminded of traffic when I go back home — clean air, all of the recreation we have to offer, and especially family. To me, what makes Amarillo great is the family. Family translates to shop floor. The same guys that are barbecuing on Sunday are bucking rivets together on shop floor on Monday. Relationships make this place great.

I wake up early every day to come to work knowing that I have the best job in the world. I get to work with the best crew and the best people in the world to execute the best mission in the world — a mission we can buy into. I do not get to serve active duty anymore, and that hurts, but I know that what we are doing every day will save lives. I can actually give back by making certain our warfighters, our men and women, are supplied with the very best technology we can provide.  

Want To Learn More About Bell's V-280 Valor Team?

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Photos courtesy of Bell Helicopter

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