Airbus Helicopter to tap China's low Altitude Airspace

By Prei Dy, | May 29, 2017

Airbus is starting to build its first helicopter assembly line in China. (YouTube)

Airbus is starting to build its first helicopter assembly line in China. (YouTube)

Airbus has kicked off building its first helicopter assembly in China, with plans to produce at least 18 machines every year.

Airbus, which is the world's biggest supplier of commercial helicopters, is eyeing to get a taste of China's low-altitude airspace as the country currently has shortage of civilian helicopters for emergency medical purposes and other uses.

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Guillaume Faury, Airbus Helicopters chief executive, said in a statement that the start of the construction showed the company's "commitment to further enhancing our industrial co-operation with China's rapidly growing aviation industry."

The aircraft maker's final assembly line will be located in the Sino-German Ecopark in the coastal city of Qingdao, eastern China, with construction expected to finish at the end of next year. The first helicopter is scheduled to be delivered in mid-2019, Faury said. An Airbus framework agreement inked in 2016 called for 100 H135 helicopters to be assembled over the next decade.

"With the further opening up of the Chinese skies and the increasing growth in the civil and parapublic segments, China is gearing up to be the biggest market for helicopters in years to come," Norbert Ducrot, head of Airbus Helicopters China and North Asia region, said.

Airbus is the first foreign market to tap in China's helicopter industry. It will team up with Qingdao United General Aviation Company. Airbus also has its own aircraft assembly plant in the northeastern city of Tianjin, which was opened in 2008.

According to Vincent Dufour, Airbus Helicopter's sales director in China, the potential for growth in the country is vast as there are only around 800 helicopters in the country, which is relatively lower compared with Europe's 8,000 and US' 12,000. Experts predict that China will need at least 600 light helicopters over the next two decades.

Airbus' H135 is usually used for emergency medical services, but the company said it plans to sell the units to Chinese police for surveillance purposes. The light helicopter could also be utilized for police firefighting and tourism.

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