I just returned from HELIEXPO 2011. Held in Orlando, FL this year, it is the Helicopter Association International’s largest show and exposition. Many attendees look for announcements and industry outlooks from the manufactures. This year the mood was very upbeat for the future health of the helicopter industry. Part of this optimism comes from China.
A recent change in the country’s low-level airspace rules has paved the way for civilian helicopter operations. Currently there are 200 civil helicopters in China and according to Chinese officials that number is expected to increase to 3,000 by 2020. Not wasting any time, a consortium of Chinese aviation companies signed a memorandum of understanding with Erickson Air-Crane that includes the purchase of up to 5 S-64F Air-Cranes.
Chinese officials also announced, China Helicopter Exposition 2011 – the first edition of a unique show dedicated to the rotorcraft industry and scheduled to run from September 15th to the 18th. It is a direct initiative from Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and heavily supported by the central government. AVIC helicopter division, AVICOPTER, has invested over $800 billion in a research center and a helicopter production facility in Tianjin. When completed the factory will be manufacturing 30 thirty-ton aircraft, 40 ten-ton aircraft and 170 light aircraft a year. This investment shows how serious the country’s desire is to develop a national rotor aircraft industry. The Tianjin factory is expected to grow its production by 17% annually. This provides opportunities for foreign companies to support what is going to become a major growth area in the global helicopter industry.