Enstrom Helicopters will open offices in Beijing and Shanghai in June in attempt to bolster sales to Chinese operators.

The decision to form an in-house sales team for China comes after Wuhan Helicopter has sold just four helicopters since becoming Enstrom's Chinese dealer in 1993. Sales prospects have also been hurt by the November 2003 crash of a Wuhan Helicopter Enstrom 480 turbine and the grounding of a Wuhan police Enstrom 280FX piston.

Enstrom says Wuhan will continue to sell helicopters and pursue a long-delayed joint-venture manufacturing operation. The two companies have been planning for the last decade to extend their partnership by building an assembly plant in Wuhan. Last year Wuhan said the factory would finally open in 2004, but the project has again been delayed as Wuhan struggles to line up the necessary capital.

"It's a requirement in China to manufacture the aircraft there," says new chief executive Jerry Mullins, who plans to visit Wuhan for the first time this year.

Previously Wuhan had a free reign in China while Enstrom sales in the rest of Asia were managed from its Taipei office.

Source: Flight International