Chinese Companies Place Order for Five Erickson Air-Cranes

 - March 7, 2011, 9:29 AM

Erickson Air-Crane (Booth No. 459) and a consortium of Chinese aviation companies have signed a deal for up to five S-64F Air-Cranes. The companies signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) yesterday at Heli-Expo 2011.

Erickson president Udo Rieder said Erickson was approached by several state-owned Chinese entities late last year and that the final deal likely will include a full package of options for the helicopters, including Sagem avionics, grapples, fire tanks, buckets, baskets, portable patient transport units and a boom nozzle that fires 300 gallons of water per minute up to 200 feet. The latter is particularly well suited for fighting fires in high-rise buildings.

Rieder said the impetus for the Chinese interest is coming from the country’s central government, which is interested in developing better disaster-response capabilities.

While details of a final deal remain to be worked out, Rieder said that it likely would involve co-developing sales, manufacturing, MRO and general operations of the helicopters at the Kunshan Aviation Industrial Park, a project being developed for China’s aviation industry in Dian Shan Lake Town near Shanghai. Rieder said the initial deal would be a “proof of concept” and additional sales were possible.

Helicopter deliveries would begin in the first quarter of 2012 and initially would consist of remanufactured helicopters and lift from Erickson’s existing fleet. Those helicopters would be rotated out and replaced with new production helicopters over the course of approximately one year.

The consortium members that are part of the non-binding MOU include Kun Shan Dian Shan Lake Aviation Industrial, Avicopter, China Flying Dragon General Aviation and China Aviation Supplies. Rieder said he expected a detailed agreement to be finalized within six months.

Rieder said Erickson is down to its last five legacy airframes that can be rebuilt and is transitioning to completely new-build helicopter production. He said the move to all new production would not be difficult as Erickson already fabricates 60 to 70 percent of the airframe on its remanufactured helicopters. “It will not be a big leap for us.”

He did not expect the move to increase production costs significantly. Concurrent with the move to new production, Erickson is working on developing composite main rotor blades with Advanced Technologies (Booth No. 4162) for the Air-Crane. Rieder said he expects the blades to improve lift by 10 to 15 percent at altitude and reduce fuel consumption by 3 to 5 percent.