Last year’s announcement of schemes aimed at opening some lower-altitude airspace (LAA) in China offered a glimmer of hope to the rotary-wing sector that it would soon be easier to operate helicopters in the country. However, there is still some way to go before the industry can grow much further, as officials grapple with how to manage airspace once the experiments finish.
Wu Zhendong, president of helicopter distributor Avion Pacific, which has been in China since 1993, thinks he has a solution. “We are working with the military to install special equipment in the aircraft that is connected to ground stations, so we offer flight tracking, which means that officials are more comfortable with movements in and around border areas, for example,” he told AIN. Avion Pacific also offers advanced rotary crew training and support.
Wu said there is a major issue impeding helicopter market development. Among the many challenges faced by helicopter operators in China is the huge gap in flying skills between freshly minted low-time pilots with around 150 hours, and those able to operate large twin types, such as the Sikorsky S-76.
Opportunities for new pilots to build time is very limited, with a dearth of machines and of companies willing to pay for further training. “We are working with a flight training academy to address this issue, but really, the initiative needs to come from companies themselves to help people gain time,” said Wu.
The firm is developing a huge 38,000-sq-ft (3,500-sq-m) facility at Zhuhai Airport, which may offer training in future, alongside maintenance, repair and overhaul and fixed-base operator services.
Slowing the development of helicopter operations in China is the huge gap in flying skills between freshly minted low-time pilots with around 150 hours and those able to operate large twin types, such as the Sikorsky S-76. (Photo: David McIntosh.)