An employee works at the production line of the Airbus helicopter plant in Donauwoerth, Germany. The European aircraft maker is to manufacture the H135 light twin-engine helicopters in China.
Airbus Helicopters is moving forward with its strategic partnership with China, with construction now underway of its first helicopter assembly line in the country.
Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus Helicopters, said the new final assembly line for its H135 chopper in Qingdao, Shandong province, is the first for the company in China.
Costing more than 10 million euros (.21 million), the plant is expected to be completed by 2018, he said at the weekend groundbreaking ceremony.
Under a framework agreement signed in June last year, 100 Airbus H135s will be assembled over the next 10 years and the first aircraft rollout from Qingdao is planned for mid-2019. The production line will have a total installed annual capacity of 18 helicopters, which can be extended for future growth.
Faury said the project was a "remarkable milestone" for his company's global footprint and demonstrated its commitment to further enhancing industrial cooperation with China's rapidly growing aviation industry.
"We are confident that this project will achieve a win-win solution to fulfill the requirements of local customers while supporting the development of crucial helicopter services," Faury said.
The new facility, located in the Jimo Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone, will be operated by Airbus Helicopters and Qingdao United General Aviation Co Ltd, a joint venture between China Aviation Supplies Holding Co and Qingdao United General Aviation Industrial Development Co Ltd.
Airbus Helicopters holds a majority share of 51 percent in the joint venture.
"The H135 final assembly line is another strong example of Sino-European cooperation and will play an important role in further promoting the development of China's general aviation industry," said Li Hai, president of CAS.
"We believe in this partnership and are looking forward to seeing the first Airbus helicopter assembled in China."
The H135 is a light twin-engine helicopter, mainly operating in emergency medical services, search and rescue, law enforcement, firefighting and tourism. To date more than 1,200 helicopters in the H135 family have gone into operation internationally.
In 2016, China became Airbus Helicopters' biggest civilian market in terms of annual orders. Given the rapid development of the helicopter emergency medical services, public services and offshore wind industry in the country, a potential demand for 600 light twin-engine helicopters is expected over the next two decades.