Hafei Aviation Industry has completed its first batch of components for the Bell 430 and plans to begin delivering fuselages for the helicopter early next year. Bell Helicopter last week certificated a doubler and bracket manufactured by Hafei and approved Hafei’s quality control system.

The certifications clear Hafei to begin manufacturing entire fuselages, including the tailboom, for the 430 as envisaged under a contract awarded in 2003.

Bell director of supply chain and global sourcing Michael Mancuso says the first Hafei-built cabin will arrive in Canada in March and be part of a helicopter that will be delivered next November.

Hafei will be the exclusive supplier for the Bell 430 cabin, taking over from Canada’s Fleet Aerospace, which stopped producing components for the 430 in June. Bell plans to deliver 14 430 intermediate twins this year and 13 next year, but aims to double production in 2007.

This is the first time Bell has sourced any components in China and the manufacturer is already looking to expand its new relationship with Hafei, possibly by opening a Chinese assembly line. To reduce the cycle time and cost of the 430, Bell is also hoping Hafei will begin manufacturing and machining components and minor structures it now acquires from overseas. Bell believes outsourcing to China will support its effort to boost sales to Chinese operators.

To help further push sales in China, Bell is also discussing setting up a service centre, spare parts depot and pilot training centre with potential partners. “We want to establish a presence in China. The presence starts with manufacturing. Our next step is logistics and training,” says Bell president Jacques St-Laurent. There are no 430s currently operating in China, but Bell last week announced the delivery of the first two Bell 206LRs in China.

Beijing Capital General Aviation has already begun operating the aircraft for power line patrols and is considering ordering additional Bell 206s.

Source: Flight International