Julian Moxon/PARIS

Eurocopter is to step up production of its EC120 Colibri light helicopter from four to six aircraft a month by late December, reflecting a "growing worldwide demand" for the five-seat machine.

The smallest and most recent helicopter in the Eurocopter range, the Colibri has won more than 100 orders since its launch in February 1997. The first delivery, to Japan's Nosaki, took place in January. Planned production is set at 30-40 aircraft this year. Eurocopter says it is gearing up for sales of 60-80 in 1999, adding that market response to date "-supports our belief that there is a market for a minimum of 1,600 Colibris in the next 10 years". Half of the sales to date have been in the USA, it adds.

Despite suffering from European rules banning the use of single-engined helicopters for emergency medical services work, the EC120 has found a ready market in the role in other parts of the world, says Eurocopter. "We've also had a good response in the business market, particularly in Australia and New Zealand", it adds.

Fuselages are arriving from China's export agency CATIC's and Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing's plant in Harbin at a rate of four a month, although that is set to increase "-and can go on increasing to meet demand", says Eurocopter. The Colibri is priced at $795,000 to June 1999.

Source: Flight International