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JV lifts off in aviation market with launch of Chinese-made helicopter
( 2003-06-18 10:11) (China Daily)

The US-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp, one of the world's leading helicopter manufacturers, unveiled its first "Chinese-made" light helicopter in Shanghai recently, targetting the country's fledgling civil aviation market.

The three-seat S-300C helicopter, which weighs around 930 kilograms, was manufactured by Shanghai Sikorsky Aircraft Corp, a joint venture between Sikorsky and a local private business, Shanghai Little Eagle Science and Technology Co.

Cai Yan, marketing officer with Shanghai Sikorsky Aircraft Corp, told China Daily the joint venture is "ready to mass-produce S-300C helicopters to meet the demand."

Currently, the firm can produce 48 S-300C helicopters per year.

According to company sources, S-300C helicopters will also be on sale to individuals for around US$280,000.

"Individuals in China can buy our products," said Cai.

"But there are still certain policy barriers facing private airplanes," she added.

Shanghai Sikorsky Aircraft Corp suggests qualified individuals apply for light aircraft under the name and supervision of a domestic general aviation company.

"The market potential in China is no doubt enormous, but the country's opening up of the civil aviation market will be a step-by-step process," said Cai.

And business, government and social organizations will remain the company's main buyers in the next three to five years, she said.

Teng Wei, chairman of the board of directors with Shanghai Little Eagle Science and Technology Co, which controls 51 per cent of the joint venture, also expressed his confidence in the country's light aircraft market.

According to Teng, the joint venture will introduce the cheaper S-300CBi, valued at around US$200,000, and more advanced S-C333 helicopters at a cost of US$600,000, into China later this year.

"We can see there will be a big boom in the light aircraft market in the near future as long as the policy restrictions continue to be removed," said Teng.

China has outlined new civil aviation regulations, which took effect on May 1.

The regulations for the first time stipulate that private airplanes can take off after a series of approvals and assessments.

Shanghai Sikorsky Aircraft Corp is the first and, so far, only joint venture helicopter manufacturer on the Chinese mainland.

The US-based helicopter maker is also well known for its non-commercial aircraft, including military planes.

The Ministry of Communications purchased in 2002 two S-76C rescue helicopters from the US company to help establish an airborne offshore search and rescue system for the nation.

Featuring sophisticated equipment such as a forward-looking infra-red system and four-axis auto hovering system, the two helicopters are now deployed at Shanghai's Salvage and Rescue Bureau.

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