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Chop-chop! We need more helicopters!
By Jiao Xiaoyang (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-18 06:11

SHANGHAI: China needs a lot more helicopters for non-military uses but it seems unlikely the country will get them soon unless operating conditions are tightened up.

Henri Stell, chief representative of Eurocopter, the world's largest civil helicopter manufacturer, said China needs thousands of helicopters for policing, firefighting, medical aid, aerial photographing and other uses. "If you consider there are roughly 600 cities in China, and each city buys one helicopter, then you already have 600," he told China Daily yesterday at a civil helicopter application forum in Shanghai.

It is thought, though, that the sight of helicopters hovering above Chinese cities is not something that will happen in the near future, not until China develops a national helicopter control system.

"Every place has its own administrative measures, and it is troublesome for helicopter owners to deal with civil aviation, the air force and all related local administrations in order to guarantee missions can be conducted normally," said an official with the Public Security Bureau of Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province.

With three helicopters, the Nanjing policeforce is one of the few non-military agencies that own helicopters in China. One successfully directed a firefighting job two months ago, the official said, requesting anonymity.

"If there are more efficient regulations in place that make operations easier, there will probably be more buying of civil helicopters," said the official.

China so far has only 60 or so turbine civil helicopters in operation.

The owners are mostly TV stations, power companies and oil companies. Not many police stations own helicopters, and many emergency activities are conducted by the air force.

"It takes time everywhere in the world for civil administration authorities to put in place the necessary regulations and control systems for helicopters," said Henri Stell.

"It is a long process but a good process because you have to absolutely ensure safety, and this is a big challenge," he said.

He was upbeat about the future of China's helicopter market. "We consider it the highest potential market worldwide."

Beijing, soon to unveil its security budget for the 2008 Olympic Games, has said it will equip local police with the newest models of helicopters.

Shanghai, the financial hub,has to host the 2010 World Expo and provide a more efficient emergency service for its 17 million citizens so it could also do with some helicopters.

(China Daily 05/18/2005 page3)

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