South Korean manufacturer to make cabins for Canadian helicopter and joins Mitsui Bussan as risk-sharing partner

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) will manufacture the cabin for the Bell 429 and be responsible for selling the new light twin helicopter in China and South Korea.

KAI chief executive Hae Joo Chung says it gained exclusive rights to sell the 429 in China and South Korea in exchange for a $26 million investment. KAI signed up in February as a risk-sharing partner in the 429 along with Mitsui Bussan, which will be in charge of selling the helicopter in Japan.

KAI was responsible for selling the 429's predecessor, the Bell 427, in China, South Korea and other Asian countries, but Chung says Bell and Mitsui were not willing to give KAI such a large sales territory for the 429.

As well as manufacturing all the cabins, KAI's Sacheon plant served as a second assembly line for the 427. For the 429, Chung says: "Bell Canada strongly wishes to assemble the helicopters there so, according to the contract, we have no possibility to assemble the whole helicopter here."

KAI assembled only two 427s, which were sold back to Bell because it could not find any customers in Asia. The company is confident it will be more successful selling the 429 because the 427 is only capable of flying under visual flight rules (VFR) and most Asian operators insist helicopters are certificated for instrument flight rules (IFR).

"The 427 was just VFR and the 429 is IFR so the weak point of the 427 has been addressed," says Chung. "So I can see a bright future for the 429 in China and South Korea."

KAI also aims to manufacture, in the next decade, a 6,800kg (15,000lb) -class civil helicopter that will be an offshoot of an army utility helicopter it will begin to develop next year. KAI, which already supplies Bell with cabins for the 212 and 412, is also looking to line up new partners in the helicopter sector and Chung last month met his counterpart at Eurocopter, Fabrice Bregier.

Source: Flight International