2012-07-05 — China’s leading aircraft manufacture has taken two major steps toward grabbing a larger share of the booming local helicopter market, after winning approval to mass-produce its latest model and landing major orders.
Aviation Industry Corporation of China announced that it won orders last week for 62 of its AC311, a new light civilian helicopter, the same day as the six-seater helicopter was granted its “type certificate” by the China’s civil aviation authorities.
The newly signed orders bring the total for the AC311 to 72, including two from overseas.
Zhao Lei, director of marketing at Avicopter Corp Ltd, a joint venture between AVIC and Tianjin municipal government, aimed at selling the company’s helicopters, said that gaining its type certificate “is like a birth certificate” for the AC311.
“It means the light helicopter model can now be produced on a large scale,” he added.
With the certificate approved, Zhao said the company is expected to deliver the first AC311 by the end of this year to “a private-owned aviation company based in Beijing that operates business flights”, although he gave no further details about the buyer.
The new aircraft is being targeted at gaining a dominant foothold in what is the fastest growing helicopter market in China: the small-sized model, used frequently by both the public and private sectors.
Among the customers already signed up for the AC311 are the police in Tianjin’s Binhai New District, as well as general aviation companies that plan to buy the helicopters for operating business flights, he added.
The reason for the upsurge in China’s helicopter market is that the government is opening-up and deregulating low-altitude airspace.
According to industry estimates, there are more than 150,000 potential users of private aircraft in China, mainly business aircraft and helicopters.
They suggest that China’s demand for helicopters will increase to 1,000 by 2020, up from the current fleet of around 300.
AVIC has designed and will sell the AC311 as a direct rival to the French-built Eurocopter Ecureuil helicopters, and Bell’s 206 JetRanger, built by the US-based Bell Helicopter, the two most successful models in the light helicopter sector.