BOEING HELICOPTER is in further talks with Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing (HAMC) about transferring and restarting production of the Model 234 Commercial Chinook in China.

A HAMC team is understood to have visited Boeing in Philadelphia in mid-May to discuss market prospects and funding for the proposed Chinese production line. The negotiations were first revealed towards the end of 1995 (Flight International, 18-24 October, 1995).

Local sources say that Boeing is now seeking a minimum Chinese commitment to produce up to 50 helicopters over the next five years. HAMC in turn wants Boeing to invest in the proposed new Harbin production line for the 234.

There are continuing doubts about civil demand for the heavy-lift helicopter. Production of the Commercial Chinook was suspended in the early 1980s after only 13 machines had been built. While China has a growing offshore oil industry, it is unclear how many, if any, heavy-lift support helicopters are needed.

China has already licence-produced Western helicopters, but in relatively small numbers and over an extended period of time. HAMC has completed 50 Eurocopter AS365 N1 (locally designated Z-9s) since 1980 and is continuing to built the improved N2, while Changhe Aircraft has built some Aerospatiale Super Frelons, or Z-8s.

It has been suggested that HAMC might seek to interest the Chinese army in an effort to the widen the helicopter market.

The army had previously ordered six military CH-47 Chinooks, before the deal was cancelled because of the US Government's post-1989 arms embargo imposed on China.

Source: Flight International