The rumor and gossip mill at Bell Helicopter has been running at warp speed the last few days over reports the company may hire a former top official of rival Sikorsky Aircraft Co. to take over as senior vice president of engineering and head of Bell's Xworkx research and development lab.
The suggestion that Bell may hire Nick Lappos, now an executive with Gulftream Aerospace but formerly an engineer, test pilot and head of the effort to sell Sikorsky's S-92 to the U.S. armed forces, has stirred up a tempest among old line Bell loyalists.
Some Bell employees and former employees have reportedly written letters to senior management at the company urging reconsideration if Lappos is indeed being considered for a Bell post.
Bell and Sikorsky have long been competitors and rivals, at times less than friendly. Lappos, who is well respected by many in the helicopter world, has earned the enmity of many Bell loyalists because of his past criticisms of the V-22 Osprey and Bell's other tilt-rotor aircraft development efforts including the BA609 civil tilt-rotor.
Lappos has not returned telephone calls and e-mails from the Star-Telegram. Bell officials have declined to comment on "any personnel matters."
Bell has hired several other former Sikorsky officials in recent years including Mike Blake, now executive vice president of the Fort Worth company. One industry official said Lappos is an excellent engineer and works well with other people and would have little problem renouncing his past criticisms of the V-22 to go to work for Bell.
- Bob Cox