MD Helicopters (MDHI) is poised to receive its first MD500 light single-engine helicopter order in China from an undisclosed electricity producer. The sale will be a major boost for the Mesa, California-based manufacturer, opening the door to a lucrative market, following a downturn in its core business over the past 18 months.

MDHI chief executive Henk Shaeken says: "If the sale goes ahead, the MD500 will be the first helicopter to be used for powerline inspections in China." As helicopters speed the inspection of powerlines, Shaeken expects more orders to follow. "This concept is entirely new within China and they could soon become an accepted and efficient alternative to the manual inspections [currently undertaken]," he says.

MDHI has been actively marketing its helicopter range within China through operator and distributor Avion Pacific, and has already sold a single-engined MD600N and a twin-engined Explorer to Guangdong General Aviation. The Explorer is expected to enter service by the end of October and will be deployed for harbour pilotage.

Shaeken admits MHDI has been hit by the economic slowdown with delays in procurement decisions in its key markets, law enforcement and emergency medical services, mostly in Europe and the USA. Consequently, the company is widening its net to Asia and Latin America and focusing on corporate, offshore, military and drug enforcement markets.

The company recently clinched a one-year contract from the US Department of Justice's Drug Enforcement Administration for an Explorer to be operated as an on- and off-shore patrol aircraft. MDHI plans to deliver 31 aircraft this year and 40 in 2003.

Source: Flight International