16-Sep-2011 Source: HAI
Harold Summers, HAIâ€™s director of Flight Operations and Technical Services, and Karen Gebhart, HAIâ€™s vice president of Business Development & Expositions, are participating in the 1st Biennial China Helicopter Exposition & Forum in Tianjin, China this week. This is the first time China has held this kind of dedicated helicopter event.
A country of 1.4 billion people, China has only 3,076 GA pilots, 650 of which are helicopter rated, 174 helicopters (less than one percent of the worldâ€™s total civil helicopters), and less than 20 aviation training schools. It will take time and resource to build up the supply to meet the rapidly growing demand for a functional EMS system. On the first day, the Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC) and other government agencies held a forum where many Chinese officials articulated the needs, and the obstacles to development of an EMS system.
Many sections of the Chinese government are vying for control of the EMS program, from the air force, to the police, to the hospital system. When it is eventually determined who will drive the future, and flying in low altitude airspace is accepted, there will need to be the infrastructure to handle the predicted 2,000 additional helicopters that will flood the market. Air Methods CEO Aaron Todd explained to the group just how critical safety, technology and management of operations will be to deploy successful EMS.
Briand Greer, Honeywellâ€™s vice president of Asia Pacific Aerospace, also shared safety concerns. He said that the highest rates of accidents within helicopter EMS are CFIT-related. With the vast and varied terrains in China, he stressed the heightened importance for training and using the best navigation technology.
Following the formal opening ceremony on Sept. 15, including an impressive helicopter airshow demonstration, the exposition pavilion opened to a large crowd of attendees. Summers and Gebhart met with many HAI members, including AgustaWestland, Bell, Eurocopter, Marenco, and Sikorsky regarding their presence at the show and their expectations for the China market in the coming years.
Everyone was encouraged by the opportunities, but cautious on the timing for the Chinese government to move forward, and for infrastructure needs. Wang Bin, the general manager of China Aviation Helicopters Ltd., stressedÂ to Summers and Gebhart the importance of extensive cooperation within all circles of aviation. He expressed an interest in attending HELI-EXPO 2012 in Dallas, Texas in February to further collaboration efforts.
With training at the top of the list for this new emerging market, it was not a surprise to see HAI member companies Hillsboro Aviation and Civic Helicopters, Inc. present. Hillsboroâ€™s general manager, Jon Hay, and school director, Ryan McCartney, shared their observations that the traffic and interest from attendees regarding training was even better than anticipated. Chin Tu, the president of Civic Helicopters, explained to Gebhart that he saw the need to train CFIs first as mission critical.
HAI looks forward to further exploration of the Chinese helicopter market on behalf of HAI members at ABACE (Asian Business Aircraft Convention and Exposition) in Shanghai next March, and in the months and years to come.