Eurocopter is discussing outsourcing EC135 subassemblies to Harbin Aircraft as part of an attempt to corner the growing Chinese light-twin helicopter market.

Industry sources say Harbin could initially be a customisation centre for EC135s and then add capability to manufacture components, initially for helicopters sold locally and later foreign-sold aircraft. Harbin already manufactures most of the EC120 fuselage and later this year will begin assembly of EC120 light singles sold in China.

Sources believe Eurocopter is trying to extend its partnership with Harbin to include larger helicopters in reaction to a push by competitors to forge new manufacturing ties in China. Last year Bell contracted Hafei Aviation Industry to produce major components for its Bell 430 and AgustaWestland signed a deal with Changhe Aircraft Industries for local production of the A109. Hongdu Aviation has already begun assembling MD 500/600s.

Changhe, Hafei, Harbin and Hongdu are subsidiaries of China Aviation Industry II. Eurocopter aims to sell 10-15 EC135s a year to Chinese operators, primarily to local governments and police. The indigenous Harbin H410 and H425, new civil variants of the Z-9, also compete for sales in this sector.

Source: Flight International