Helicopter salesperson of the year: Angela Merkel sells 123 Airbus Helicopters in China


Angela Merkel selling helicopters

You do wonder why OEMs bother with salespeople. Airbus Helicopters has the largest market share in China and has been established there for many years but none of its own salespeople has ever got close to Angela Merkel’s sale of 123 helicopters when she visited Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in July.

Merkel’s deal involves three operators – Fujian Xinmei, Guangdong Baiyun and Yunnan Fengxiang – which few people in China are familiar with. All three placed extremely large orders compared to their current fleet.

Fujian Xinmei GAC has operated one AS350 B3e since 2012 and has four AS350 B3es due this year. It ordered 50 more helicopters to be delivered by 2020.

Guangdong Baiyun GAC ordered a mix of Ecureuil and EC135 helicopters. It is taking an EC130 T2 later this year and will get its first three EC135 T2es by April 2015.

Yunnan Fengxiang – which ordered 18 AS350B3es – is taking delivery of its first helicopter later this year.

These are hugely ambitious orders.

At our Helicopter Finance Asia conference in June we had a fascinating session looking at the process you need to go through to get an AOC in China. Despite the bureaucracy there are about 120 operators but most of these operate less than five helicopters.

Once you have got your AOC you then have to cope with limited demand, airspace restrictions and a shortage of key workers (you can only poach a pilot from another operator if you pay a transfer fee).

Despite much talk of low level airspace restrictions being lifted not a lot has happened.

However, by far the most positive development is the Bejing Red Cross Society Air Ambulance which has just started flying missions. This Airbus Helicopter EC135 – which will do far more to free up airspace and demonstrate the benefits of helicopters than any lobbyist could.

Airbus Helicopters estimates that China will need $68 billion of helicopters over the next 20 years. This sounds reasonable for such a large country. But no one can predict who will be the biggest operators in China in five year’s time. Let alone who will be around in 2034. Not even Merkel.

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