China’s growing love affair with helicopters looks set to continue.
Previously tight airspace rules in the country were relaxed in 2016, allowing civilian use below 3,000 meters. In the months that followed, Bell Helicopter, Airbus Helicopters and Leonardo Helicopters have all secured big orders in China.
In June, Bell secured a bumper contract to sell 100 407GXP helicopters to Shaanxi Helicopter (SHC).
Speaking at the Dubai Airshow on Tuesday, Patrick Moulay, the executive vice president of global sales for Bell Helicopter, said the gap between the fleet size in China and that of the U.S. was huge and the former is racing to catch up.
“This year we have already received more than 200 orders from China alone. This is more than we have received for the rest of the world,” Moulay said.
Bell Helicopter now has three customer service bases located in China, including Shanghai’s KingWing General Aviation, Chongqing’s General Aviation and the recently announced Aerochine Aviation in Zhenjiang.
Moulay said it was key to make sure that the customer has all the training and servicing needs that they require or sales won’t follow. “The rule of the game is to have a very strong localization strategy,” he added.
Moulay noted that while there was some recovery in global helicopter sales, the traditional big buyers of the oil and gas sector were still being cautious.
He said clients had more confidence thanks to the recent rise in the price of oil but it would be around two years before he expected any sales spurt.
Moulay said he anticipated energy-related firms to first increase their use of existing helicopters.