Global Helicopter Giants Seek Chinese Customers
2011-09-16 20:16:46 Xinhua Web Editor: Zhangxu
By Xinhua writers Zhang Yi and Ni Yuanjin
Whirlybirds and choppers took to the skies above crowds of spectators on Friday at the China Helicopter Exposition in the northern port city, with global helicopter manufacturers scrambling for a piece of China's fledgling helicopter market.
Over 200 helicopter manufacturers from 19 countries and regions are attending the ongoing exposition, hoping to brand their companies and introduce their products to a relatively new market, according to expo organizers.
Exhibitors include helicopter giants Sikorsky and Bell Helicopter Textron from the U.S., Eurocopter from France and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), China's largest aircraft manufacturer.
The helicopter market in China is predicted to boom following changes to the country's regulations on low-altitude airspace, according to Jean Royer, Eurocopter's senior marketing manager.
The State Council, or China's cabinet, announced that China will adjust airspace regulations and relax controls on low-altitude airspace nationwide by 2015. The move is predicted to spur demand for general aviation (GA) aircraft, including helicopters.
However, a shortage of technicians and pilots may ultimately hamper the growth of the industry in China. Helicopter manufacturers have begun to address the issue, according to Priscilla Yip, a senior executive from Eurocopter. She said her company is now working with a Chinese university to train more helicopter pilots.
Lin Guoqing, a marketing manager for Lufthansa HNA Technical Training, pointed out problems with the current supply of qualified helicopter technicians. "We have no training programs for helicopter technicians," Lin said, adding that the small size of China's helicopter market has not created enough demand for new training programs.
Inadequate infrastructure is also a common concern among expo exhibitors. China needs to build more airfields for private aircraft as its helicopter market expands, according to Yu Feng, general manager of AVIC Changhe Aircraft Industries Group Co., Ltd.
Li Ruiyi, general manager of the China Flying-Dragon General Aviation Company, said it will be difficult to build more airfields, especially in densely-populated areas in east China.
Despite these obstacles, the domestic helicopter market is still expected to take off before long. AVIC unveiled a new ultra-light helicopter at the expo on Thursday, hoping to attract the attention of wealthy private clients.
"A coal mine owner told me he could visit his mine much more easily by flying in a helicopter," said Fang Yonghong, chief designer of AVIC's AC310 ultra-light chopper.
The expo is running from Thursday to Sunday in north China's port city of Tianjin. The expo is being organized by the Administrative Committee of the Tianjin Port Free Trade Zone, the Administrative Committee of the Airport Economic Area of Tianjin, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China Helicopter Co. and the France Advanced Business Events Group.
Friday, September 16, 2011
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