Eurocopter Creates a New Helicopter in a Cooperative Venture with China
(Source: Eurocopter; issued Dec. 5, 2005)
In the presence of the Chinese Prime Minister, Mr. Wen Jiabao, and the French Prime Minister, Mr. Dominique de Villepin, a cooperation agreement covering the development of a new helicopter, the EC175, was signed by the President of AVIC II, Mr. Zhang Hongbiao, and the President of Eurocopter, Mr. Fabrice Brégier.
The signing of the Cooperation Contract concluded a year of intense negotiations to detail and develop the general principles laid down in the Agreement signed in October 2004 during President Chirac's official visit to China.
The five-year development phase will be kicked off early in 2006. The new civil helicopter is due to make its first flight in 2009, with European and Chinese certification set for 2011, the year in which production is due to start.
Each of the two companies will invest 300 million euros to develop the new helicopter. Production will be shared on a 50/50 basis and each country will have its own assembly line. Sales forecasts for this latest-generation helicopter call for 800 to be sold worldwide over the next 20 years.
"This historic cooperation agreement with China means that, with the EC175, we will now be able to definitively fill the gap in our helicopter range between the 5-ton Dauphin family and the 10-ton Super Puma family," said Eurocopter President Fabrice Brégier. "This program is formative for Eurocopter. It guarantees more than 30 years activities and the creation of 2,000 high tech jobs for Eurocopter and the company's partners. We expect a large number of sales from 2010 on, both in China and the rest of the world. The arrival of this new helicopter on the world market will insure Eurocopter's expansion in the years to come. Over 20 years, the program will be worth close to 10 billion euros."
The EC175 project follows in the footsteps of the past programs, which spawned increasingly tight cooperative ties between Chinese industry and Eurocopter. The licensed production of the Dauphin in 1980, followed by the industrial cooperation on the EC120 in 1992, paved the way to this more ambitious, equally shared helicopter codevelopment program.
The first codevelopment program of the EC120 light helicopter is a real success story. More than 500 EC120s have been sold throughout the world, and today the helicopter is the best seller in its category. In view of the growing market for helicopters in China, an assembly line was inaugurated in 2004 in the Harbin plant to satisfy the needs of the Chinese domestic market.
Initiated more than thirty years ago, these major cooperative projects uniting Eurocopter and China's aeronautical industry have been given a fresh lease of life by this agreement, which specifically addresses the new needs of the Chinese market.
"Today we are the front runner in the Chinese market with a 45% share in the civil and parapublic helicopter sector," said Mr. Norbert Ducrot, Eurocopter Vice-President for Asia. "Between now and 2015, it is predicted that China will need about 300 helicopters. The needs are colossal. Consider the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the 2010 Universal Exhibition in Shanghai. These two events alone will require the services of a large fleet of helicopters for security, law enforcement, medical assistance, emergency medical evacuation, TV broadcasts, VIP transport, and other activities. Thanks to the strategic cooperation agreement signed today, Eurocopter is not only set to become a privileged partner of the Chinese with respect to its global competitors, but the company will also be able to strengthen its position in a market that is enjoying an outstanding annual growth rate of 10-15%."
The EC175 to be developed by Eurocopter and AVIC II will feature the very latest technological advances in the cockpit and avionics, and with the 5-bladed Spheriflex main rotor and high energy absorbing airframe. The EC175 will be certified for two-pilot IFR and single-pilot VFR operations when carrying up to 16 passengers. The helicopter will have a radius of action of 200 nautical miles at a speed of 280 km/h.
As part of his official stay in France, the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao will pay a visit to Eurocopter's Marignane site on Tuesday 6 December, where he will be welcomed by Mr. Noël Forgeard, President of EADS, Mr. Jean-Paul Gut COO of EADS, and Mr. Fabrice Brégier, President of Eurocopter.