Aviation industry sees promising future
By Lu Haoting (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-11-17 10:55

While the opening day of the Zhuhai Air Show on November 4 witnessed China's first major overseas deal selling 25 home-grown ARJ 21 regional jets, the country's general aviation industry also made a small, but important step forward.

Aviation industry sees promising future

The EC175 helicopter, jointly developed by China Aviation Industry Corp (AVIC) and Eurocopter, received five orders from Longken General Purpose Aviation. Longken, based in Heilongjiang province, became EC175's first commercial customer in China.

Also on the same day, Eurocopter announced the sale of 10 EC155 helicopters to Citic Offshore Helicopter (COHC), a leading Chinese offshore operator based in Shenzhen.

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"Once the (Chinese) government relaxes low altitude airspace controls, the Chinese (helicopter) market should reach a size at least similar to the US market today," says Lutz Bertling, CEO of Eurocopter.

"The Chinese market might reach around 200 (helicopter) deliveries a year in the second half of next decade," says Bertling, adding that China could become the largest market in Asia given the relaxation in regulations.

China's civil and semi-public sector promises great potential for using choppers for offshore oil and gas exploration, homeland security, search and rescue, power line surveillance, medical service and fire fighting.

General aviation refers to all flights other than military and scheduled airline flights. It includes civilian flights and other purposes such as rescue, offshore exploration and aerial photography.

There are only 124 civilian helicopters in China, while the United States has more than 10,000 helicopters and Brazil has nearly 500, according to statistics from China Aviation Industry Corp (AVIC), a major Chinese aviation manufacturer.

A major constraint is airspace inconvenience and the resultant lack of air and ground services. Except for designated commercial air routes, the airspace of the Chinese mainland is currently under the administration of the air force. Another constraint is insufficient pilot and maintenance crews in China.

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