Commercial

China Holds Air Show Amid Trade Tensions With US

By Frank Wolfe | November 5, 2018
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Changhe Z-10

Changhe Z-10. File photo

A number of U.S. companies, including Boeing, Bell, Sikorsky, United Technologies Corporation, L3 and Honeywell Aerospace, are attending the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition this week in Zhuhai in Guangdong Province amid trade tensions between the two countries. Every two years since 1996, Chinese authorities have held the air show, but this year's show has an extra wrinkle, as U.S. rotorcraft companies are hoping that both nations do not carry out retaliatory tariffs on helicopter parts, avionics and airframes.

Earlier this year, the U.S. presidential administration announced 25 percent tariffs on some 1,300 products, including helicopters and helicopter parts. For its part, China announced tariffs on aircraft weighing between 16.5 tons and 49.5 tons — a weight range that, if retained, would not result in tariffs on U.S. commercial helicopters sold in China.

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At the end of last year, there were about 900 civil helicopters in China, and it is estimated that robust growth between 10 and 20 percent annually will continue.

Earlier this year, Andy Gill, an Asia-Pacific senior director at Honeywell, said that more than one in five rotorcraft operators in China plan to buy a new helicopter in the next five years — a sharp increase from the 12 percent that said the same in 2016. Light single-engine and medium twin-engine helicopters will grab the majority of the intended purchases, each capturing about 35 percent of the projected sales among respondents to a Honeywell survey who expressed a category preference.

European companies are also angling for a share of the Chinese market.

In September, Airbus delivered the first of 100 emergency medical services (EMS)-configured H135s to the Health Commission of Qingdao. The aircraft has Airbus' Helionix avionics suite, which the company said increases safety and decreases pilot workload. Airbus said that it would build 95 of the H135s on a final assembly line in Qingdao, which is to open early next year.

At this week's air show in Zhuhai, Airbus also plans to display an H130, an H160, an H145 and an H175, a super-medium helicopter produced in a joint Sino-French venture between Airbus and Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).

Next year, the Guangzhou Police are to receive a second H145 for passenger transport, search-and-rescue, and traffic surveillance and intervention missions, Airbus said. The department ordered its first H145 in 2015.

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