Eurocopter believes that China's helicopter fleet could grow fivefold to 1,000 in 2020, as the country's continues to develop its infrastructure and relax its stringent regulations.

"From 200 helicopters last year, we believe that China could have 500 in 2015 and 1,000 in 2020. And that is just the conservative view," says Eurocopter chief executive Lutz Bertling. "We have a 40% market share in China, and we are well-positioned to grow that even further in the coming years."

The EADS subsidiary has sold more than 150 helicopters into the country, spread across segments such as oil and gas, search and rescue, public services, commercial operations and corporate and VIP missions.

Eurocopter has been involved in China for several decades, and has an assembly line in Harbin for the EC120 and is jointly developing the twin-engined EC175/Z15 with AVIC, the state-owned manufacturer.

It is making plans to boost its presence in China's maintenance, repair and overhaul market, and getting involved in ab-initio pilot training activities. The decision to remain involved will help it retain, and possibly increase, its market share even when indigenously designed and developed helicopters become competitive over the next 20 years, says Bertling.

While Chinese companies are embarking on the development of several classes of helicopters, Bertling believes that the first generation of aircraft may be more for the domestic market than the international one. That will change by the end of the next decade, he adds.

"The Chinese industry will be competitive in the world market by 2020," Bertling predicts. "They will have products and type certifications that allow them to operate anywhere in the world."

Despite that, Eurocopter believes that it makes more sense to remain in the market rather than try to find a way out of it.

"Any new competitor is a challenge. Every country like China wants to build up its industry. You have two options as OEMs. You can either be a spectator, or be part of the growth. If you are part of the growth, you will have market position. We are satisfied with what we are doing. We have good relationships with our Chinese partners. That will help us," says Bertling.

Source: Flight International