Speaking at the “Helicopter Operations” seminar today at ABACE 2014, Bell Helicopter China managing director Chris Jaran said the helicopter fleet in China has grown by an average of 20 percent annually from 2009 through 2014, to 465 aircraft from 227. The Chinese rotorcraft fleet is 35 percent piston-powered and 65 percent turbine, he noted.
Half of China’s helicopter fleet is equipped for multi-mission capabilities, the most popular being disaster relief. Helicopter owners and operators are altruistic and want their machines to be available to help people during the next disaster, according to Jaran.
He said the improving regulatory environment for general aviation in China has had a significant effect on the helicopter industry, with most airspace below 1,000 meters now available for flight operations. By next year, Jaran added, only a small number of military zones will be inaccessible, with the vast majority of low-altitude airspace open. “In some cases there will be no need to get approval to fly after filing a flight plan,” he pointed out.
China has also adapted its private pilot licensing regulations to align more closely with U.S. requirements, a move intended to promote growth of the pilot population. Other regulatory easing is under way to allow more maritime search-and-rescue, patrol and oil-and-gas operations, Jaran said.