China certifies Sikorsky S-76D helicopter for 'growing' market

Updated: 2014-04-15 11:00

By Jack Freifelder in New York (China Daily USA)

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US-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp has received approval from China's Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) to begin delivering its S-76D helicopter to China, a move that underscores the growing market for helicopters by Chinese companies.

China certifies Sikorsky S-76D helicopter for 'growing' market

Following the recent certification by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, Yunnan Jincheng Group will receive the first Sikorsky S-76D in China. Provided to China Daily

The Yunnan Jincheng Group will be the first company in China with Sikorsky's S-76D model, the aircraft company said. It is expected to be delivered to China this month. The Jincheng Group, which is headquartered in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, has operations in five sectors, including the vehicle and light-power industries.

"This certification helps expand our presence in a strategically important region with many potential customers," Ryan McFeaters, general manager of Sikorsky Aircraft in China, said in an April 14 press release. "We are also glad to continue working with Jincheng, an important Sikorsky customer, and look forward to hearing of their successes with this aircraft."

The announcement was made at the 2014 Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE). The annual aviation industry gathering brings together manufacturers, business leaders and government officials.

US Ambassador to China Max Baucus is scheduled to attend this year's event, which runs from April 15-17 in Shanghai.

The S-76D is the latest S-76 model to be validated by the CAAC. It was preceded by the S-76A and S-76C helicopters. More than 30 Sikorsky S-76 aircraft currently operate in China.

There were only 298 privately owned helicopters in China in 2012, according to the latest figures from the Chinese Aircraft Registry, compared with 10,102 in the US that year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Sikorsky is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp - a multi-industry company based in Hartford, Connecticut, with holdings in the aerospace and building systems industries. United Technologies ranks 50th on the Fortune 500 list of America's largest corporations.

News of Sikorsky's CAAC approval is not the only recent example of companies selling or looking to sell helicopters in China.

Plans to open airspace are part of China's current Five-Year Plan and the Airbus Group expects to take more than half of the estimated market for helicopters in China over the next 20 years through an agreement between Airbus Helicopters (AH) and Aviation Industry Corporation of China.

Guillaume Faury, chief executive of Airbus Helicopters (AH), told The Wall Street Journal last month that the pace of acquiring helicopters will pick up in the coming years despite just 20 of them being delivered to China in 2013.

Bell Helicopter (BH), a US helicopter manufacturer, has also sold a number of aircraft to Chinese companies since the beginning of the year.

"As the rotorcraft industry continues to advance in China, our customers are looking at the aircraft as a means to improve the productivity of their business," said Chris Jaran, managing director for BH in China, in a statement in February.

On Feb 14, Bell announced the sale of four aircraft to the Chongqing General Aviation Co, and two weeks later the Hurst, Texas-based manufacturer sent two helicopters to China's Beidahuang Group.

The agreements call for the Bell helicopters to be used to assist with search-and-rescue operations, firefighting missions and agricultural work, like crop management, seeding and fertilization.

Bell, Sikorsky and AH are three of the five leading rotorcraft manufacturers in the world. AH, formerly known as Eurocopter, controls more than 40 percent of the global rotorcraft market, according to a March 26 report by The Wall Street Journal.

Du Qiang, deputy director-general of the China's national Air Traffic Control Commission, told the Shanghai Securities News last year that China expects to have upward of 2,600 general aviation aircraft by 2015.