It is still relatively rare in China to see helicopters flying above the city skyline, but the market has been growing at nearly 20 percent annually during the past few years. The potential need for helicopters has attracted manufacturers at home and abroad to introduce new models into China. The recent China Helicopter Expo held in Tianjin ended with 10 billion U.S. dollars worth of deals signed.
Overseas companies are now making customized helicopters for Chinese users, in a sign of the Chinese market's growing importance. Bell Helicopter from the United States brought out its latest model developed for the State Grid in China.
The cooperation between China and major world helicopter manufactures goes even deeper, including developing new models together. The H175, a seven-ton class medium utility helicopter, is co-developed by China's AVIC and Airbus.
"We have been cooperating with AVIC for more that 40 years. And we have especially common products together, which is H175 on our side, it is AC352, which is a 50-50 helicopter, and we are able to sell it worldwide," said Vincent Dufour, head of Sale and Customer Relation, Airbus Helicopter China.
In recent years, China has been speeding up efforts to develop more types of helicopters to address its needs in sectors such as Emergency Medical Services, fire fighting and disaster relief.
In China, 70 percent of the land is mountainous. And plateau areas above 3,000 meters in altitude cover an area of nearly three million square kilometers. That means helicopters deployed in such terrain need to meet exacting standards, posing major challenges to high altitude performance.
The Aviation Industry Cooperation of China is currently working on a new model, the Advanced Heavy Lift Helicopter.
"There has been no ideal helicopter in the world to meet the requirement of transporting heavy engineering equipment in these plateau areas. The Advanced Heavy Lift helicopter that we're working on is vital to the economic development, emergency rescue and disaster relief mission in high-land," said Huang Chuanyue, Deputy Chief Engineer of AVIC Helicopter Company.
China is also closely working with Russia in developing this new model. Featuring high-altitude and high temperature capability, the helicopter will increase the ability of China to respond to urgent, difficult and unpredictable situations.