Manufacturer says EC175 discussions important to expansion and marketing plans

Eurocopter is in talks with Chinese manufacturers to co-develop a new medium to heavy twin-turbine helicopter dubbed the EC175.

Revealing the initiative at Heli-Expo, Eurocopter president Fabrice Bregier said the plan forms an important element of the helicopter maker's expansion strategy in China, as well as of its overall plans to compete with newer machines such as the Bell/Agusta AB139.

Describing the EC175 as being in the "6.5-10t class", Bregier says talks are under way over the joint project with several companies within AVIC II. These are believed to primarily include Harbin Aircraft, and other members of the AviChina Industry and Technology group that form part of AVIC II. Harbin has been a long-term manufacturer of the Z-9, the Chinese version of the Eurocopter AS365N Dauphin, and is starting to produce licence-built versions of the EC120 Colibri, known locally as the HC120. The company is gearing up to produce 48 currently on order for light helicopter training.

"We are in deep discussions with them about that, and I am very confident that we will be able to confirm this agreement in the coming months," says Bregier, who adds that the co-development plan includes the establishment of a Chinese subsidiary that will share both the "costs and the benefits". Few other details have been released about the proposal other than it will be positioned between the AS365/EC155 Dauphin/ Panther and EC225/EC725 Super Puma and Cougar families.

Other highlighted international "lines of growth" include Eurocopter's 2004 successes in Australia and the USA in particular. In Australia the year saw the first deliveries of the Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter, and the selection of the NH90 as the Royal Australian Air Force's Air 9000 Black Hawk successor. In the USA, the company reported continued dramatic growth with 74 new aircraft delivered in 2004, representing a 50% market share. It also took net orders of 101, or a 53% increase over 2003.

Source: Flight International