Airbus Helicopters has played down the potential impact on its existing Donauwörth production facility of a new Chinese assembly line for the H135 twin-engined rotorcraft.

The airframer has signed a letter of intent with Qingdao-based Sino-German Ecopark covering the establishment of a final-assembly line for the helicopter. It also includes a commitment by the Chinese firm to acquire 100 locally built examples of the light twin in the next 10 years.

At present, the H135 is assembled in Donauwörth, Germany, alongside the larger H145, at a rate of around 45-50 helicopters a year. Backlog for the type is 60 units, says Airbus Helicopters.

However, the under the agreement, the majority of H135 manufacturing would still take place at the Bavarian plant, with shipsets produced for eventual assembly by the Qingdao site, it said.”This will secure the work in Donauwörth,” it added.

The airframer said that it intends to develop an ecosystem with its Chinese partners to support the assembly line, including a sales office for the type, as well as repair and overhaul, and training facilities to support the H135 fleet.

It has not released a timeline for the conclusion of the pact, however.

Airbus Helicopters forecasts that 3,000-5,000 rotorcraft will be required in China in the next 20 years. There are currently 19 examples of the H135 operating in the country.

The 2.9t H135 is powered by either Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206B3 or Turbomeca Arrius 2B2+ engines.