A rapidly growing helicopter market in China is raising concerns about the shortages of properly trained pilots and mechanics, said Chris Jaran, vice president for Bell Helicopter in China.
Jaran, who provided a helicopter market update yesterday at ABACE 2015, noted that deliveries to China grew 30 percent last year. This followed a five-year period where shipments to the region grew annually by 20 percent.
“The really good news for us is the tremendous growth,” said Jaran.
However, he added, the growth is highlighting concerns that infrastructure and properly trained professionals are not keeping pace.
While there are now 655 helicopters in China, he said there might not be as many fully qualified pilots for these machines. To make things worse, many of the helicopters involve two-pilot operations.
Turbine helicopters account for 61 percent of the fleet, mostly in the light and medium categories. The fleet, Jaran added, is concentrated in eastern China, where the large populations centers are. Central China is slowly growing its helicopter fleet, but few are in the north and western parts of the country.
The fleet is predominantly focused on multi-mission roles, followed by flight training and offshore operations. China is starting to see the use of helicopters for emergency medical services operations, Jaran said, noting seven helicopters currently are involved in such operations in the country.
The industry is hoping that China will consider providing immediate flight plan clearances for EMS operations, he said. That is one of several factors that could boost the EMS market, according to Jaran. Others include operations at all domestic airports, approval for all local helipads and the consideration of adding EMS to approved operations for government subsidies.
Another critical factor for the growing helicopter market in China is education, Jaran said. “This is a new industry with a lot of first-time buyers,” he noted. Customers need to be educated on everything from maintenance to operations and safety.