Airbus Helicopters has begun the construction of its final assembly site for the H135 lightweight utility helicopter in Qingdao, in Shandong Province in eastern China.
The final assembly site will be completed by 2018. It will assembly 100 H135s over the next 10 years for the Chinese market, where it is used for emergency medical services, search and rescue, firefighting, law enforcement and tourism.
The first Chinese-assembled H135 is expected to roll out by mid-2019. The Qingdao site will have capacity to produce up to 18 H135 helicopters per year, but Airbus Helicopters notes that this can be increased.
Airbus Helicopters CEO Guillaume Faury lauded the event, stating, “This ground breaking is a remarkable milestone for Airbus Helicopters’ global footprint and demonstrates our commitment to further enhancing our industrial cooperation with China’s rapidly growing aviation industry.”
The Qingdao site is co-owned by Airbus Helicopters and the Qingdao United General Aviation Company Limited (UGAC). Airbus Helicopters owns 51% of the plant. Airbus Helicopters is confident that China has a market potential of up to 600 lightweight twin-engine helicopters such as the H135.
The H135 is the rebranded EC135. It has a maximum take-off weight of 2,980 kg and maximum range of 609 km and maximum speed of 278 km/h. The H135 can carry up to six passengers with up to two pilots.
Although China is unable to procure Western armaments and defence systems, European vendors – most notably Airbus Helicopters and Safran Group – are collaborating with their Chinese counterparts on civil and commercial-use technology.
For example, Airbus Helicopters is also collaborating with China’s Avicopter – a division of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) – on the AC352/H175 utility helicopter. AVIC is also collaborating with Safran Helicopter Engines on the development of the WZ-16 turboshaft engine.