China expects steady growth in helicopter sales


June 24--TIANJIN -- Demand for civilian helicopters in China is expected to climb from the 170 currently in service to more than 1,500 over the next decade, making China a huge potential market, Wang Bin, president of AVIC Helicopter Co, said recently.

The number of owners of civilian helicopter in China is getting close to international levels, particularly in the affluent eastern parts of the country, Wang said.

Interest in helicopters has been growing since the devastating Wenchuan earthquake in 2008. With the central government's support, plans are in the pipeline to set up an emergency air rescue service with helicopters as its core equipment, Wang said.

As for the product portfolio, China's civilian helicopter manufacturers are making great progress in narrowing the gap between them and their international counterparts. Wang mentioned four models of helicopter that went on the market and said, "Two more types of helicopter will get certificates to go on the market this year," Wang said.

General aviation is making substantial progress as well. With the rapid development of the national economy, some industries -- such as offshore drilling and high-rise construction -- have started using helicopters to increase their production efficiency.

The Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau used two helicopters to patrol for fires during the Spring Festival for the first time this year.

In addition, a host of entrepreneurs are becoming interested in purchasing helicopters.

"For the moment, there are over 100 professional general aviation companies, up from about 40 five years ago," Wang said. "The relaxation of the low-altitude airspace restriction, is contributing enormously to an orderly and healthy development of China's general-aviation industry, promoting extensive use of helicopters in all fields."

AVIC Helicopter's Tianjin base, in the Tianjin Airport Economic Area, has delivered two helicopters to clients this year. AVIC's annual production capacity at the Tianjin base is expected to rise to around 300 helicopters annually by 2017.

For the upcoming "China Helicopter Exposition" in September, Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA) will have more than 200 helicopter manufacturers and supporting parts suppliers coming from all over the world. The exposition is scheduled to exhibit a wide range of helicopters and aerobatic displays. Nearly 1,000 companies will take part in the forums, business negotiations and technological exchanges.

Zhou Li, vice-director of the Tianjin Airport Economic Area administrative committee, said annual helicopter expositions will be set up alternating between Zhuhai in South China and Tianjin in North China.

Wang Sheng, deputy governor of Tianjin Binhai New Area, pointed out that the output value of Tianjin's aviation industry totaled 17 billion yuan ($2.68 billion) last year, which will hopefully increase to 40 billion yuan this year, and further increase to 100 billion yuan by 2015.

Following the Airbus A320 program, a batch of new-generation projects, such as a carrier-rocket industrialization base, a research-and-development and assembly base for AVIC Helicopter Co, headquarters, have all settled in Tianjin. Forty-five key parts suppliers, support businesses, domestic aviation companies and research institutions and aviation logistics enterprises are already operating in the municipality, or are planning to do so soon.