Bell Helicopter Textron Inc, a Texas-based helicopter manufacturer, signed a new sales agreement with Reignwood International Investment Group Co Ltd in Beijing on Wednesday, as U.S. President Donald Trump started his state visit to China.[Special coverage]
Reignwood, a multi-industrial conglomerate, has agreed to purchase an additional 50 Bell 505s, a light single-engine helicopter. Reignwood will become the exclusive reseller for the aircraft in China and establish a Bell 505 delivery and maintenance center.
The new contract follows previous purchase agreements signed in March, when Reignwood bought 60 Bell 505s, making it the largest operator for Bell 505. Bell said it is bullish about China's demand and plans to triple the size of its fleet here in the next five years.
Mitch Snyder, president and CEO of Bell Helicopter, who is also a member of President Trump's trade mission, and Reignwood Aviation's Chairman Zheng Gang signed the agreement. It was witnessed by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
"This signature solidifies our relationship with Reignwood and our commitment to develop the commercial rotorcraft industry in China," Snyder said.
Zheng said Reignwood will increase the use of helicopters in the corporate, tourism and utility sectors in China.
Currently, Bell and European aircraft manufacturing giant Airbus SE together hold about half of the market share of the civil turbine market in China. Other major players in the sector include Leonardo SpA, Russian Helicopters JSC and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.
"We have seen growing demand for helicopters for air ambulances, law enforcement purposes and fire fighting in China, and they are expected to continue to grow rapidly. There are only about 30 helicopters dedicated to emergency medical services in China, whereas the number is 1,200 in the United States," said Jose Jacinto Monge, managing director of Bell Helicopter in China.
European aircraft maker Airbus last year reported that China had become its largest civilian helicopter market in terms of annual orders. To meet that demand, the conglomerate is setting up an assembly line in Qingdao, Shandong province. The plant will cost about 10 million euros (.6 million) and is expected to be ready by next year.
Guillaume Faury, chief executive officer of Airbus Helicopters SAS, earlier said that Airbus is confident the project would fulfill the requirements of local customers, while supporting the development of crucial helicopter services.
By 2020, China will have more than 500 airports, and more than 5,000 general aviation aircraft will be in service, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.