Poland's PZL Swidnik plans to assemble its Sokol helicopters in China, joining a growing list of Western companies that are setting up manufacturing facilities in the country.

The decision is part of a $500 million deal for China to buy 150 Swidnik helicopters, comprising the Sokol, SW-4 and Kania models, over the next 10 years.

The Polish company will partner a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned aerospace firm AVIC II to set up an assembly plant in Jiujiang city, according to Polish and Chinese media reports.

"It is the framework for an agreement," says Swidnik. "The specifics of when, how many and what kind of helicopters will be built will be confirmed under annual agreements." The company is to send ready-made helicopters, together with parts for the assembly of Sokol helicopters, to China.

EADS subsidiary Eurocopter has been assembling helicopters in China for several years, and rival Sikorsky announced last year that it would jointly develop a 1t light helicopter with AVIC II subsidiary Changhe Aircraft.

In the fixed-wing market, USA-based Liberty Aerospace will assemble its XL2 light aircraft in China, and Cessna's sole SkyCatcher sport aircraft factory will also be in the country. And last year, Airbus announced plans to assemble its A320 narrowbody passenger aircraft in Tianjin city.

Observers say China's relatively low labour and manufacturing costs are attractive to aircraft companies, while its booming economy and increasingly affluent population provide a captive market for the final products. This combination could see more companies move their operations to the country, they suggest.

Source: FlightGlobal.com