As in many parts of the world, the helicopter industry in China continues growing steadily and is not as subject to economic ups and downs that frequently hamper the fixed-wing segment of aviation. According to Chris Jaran, managing director of Bell Helicopter China, who spoke at yesterday’s Helicopter Operations seminar at ABACE 2014, it’s a well-kept secret that the helicopter fleet in China has averaged a 20-percent increase from 2009 through 2014, from 227 to 465 aircraft (of which 35 percent are piston-powered and 65 percent turbine).
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has issued a validation type certificate for Sikorsky Aircraft’s S-76D helicopter, allowing the U.S. manufacturer to begin deliveries to Chinese customers. The move, announced on Monday at ABACE 2014 in Shanghai, follows the earlier CAAC validation of the S-76A and S-76C models. More than 30 of the twin-engine Sikorsky S-76 aircraft currently operate in China.
Aerochine Aviation, an independent representative of Bell Helicopter for China, Hong Kong and Macau, signed a purchase agreement for five more Bell 505 helicopters yesterday at ABACE 2014. Shortly afterwards Aerochine signed another agreement to buy two more Bell 407s.
Fourteen years of accident data from the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) reveal that U.S. civil helicopter accidents have decreased by approximately 25 percent since the IHST was established in 2006, with an average annual drop in accidents of around 2 percent.
An Airbus Helicopters AS350 emergency medical aircraft crashed on the roof of the University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque seconds after liftoff on April 9. The helicopter, operated by Petroleum Helicopters International, had just dropped off a patient. It failed to clear the hospital’s roof as it attempted to lift off. A fire broke out shortly after the helicopter rolled over, but was quickly extinguished by the hospital’s roof sprinkler system. Of the three people aboard, only the pilot sustained minor injuries.
AgustaWestland and Sino-US Intercontinental of China celebrated the grand opening of a joint regional business headquarters in Shanghai on April 9. Last September Sino-US Intercontinental was appointed an official non-exclusive distributor for civil AgustaWestland helicopters in China, but not including Hong Kong and Macau.
The latest addition to AgustaWestland’s family of helicopters is the AW109 Trekker, which was introduced in February and will be the first of its light twin aircraft to offer skid landing gear.
Bell Helicopter revealed at the end of March that it has sold three Bell 505 Jet Ranger Xs to China Star Aero Investment. The sale was made at Heli-Expo, held in Anaheim, California, in February, but not announced at the time. The agreement includes an option to purchase an additional seven aircraft.
Bell said that China Star Aero will use the new helicopter as part of the so-called “Beautiful China” tourism campaign. This will involve an aerial sightseeing initiative, which is supported by China’s central government.
With some long-awaited relaxation of the rules governing helicopter operations in China, prospects for the rotorcraft industry at last seem to be firming up. Last year the entire fleet (465 helicopters, 424 based in Mainland China) grew by 20 percent, according to the Asian Sky Group, which in February published the latest edition of its Greater China Civil Helicopter Fleet Report.