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China's first helicopter club to take off
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Membership for what is being touted as the country's first private helicopter club will open this weekend, organizers said yesterday.

A security guard on duty at China's first private heliport in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province, on Saturday.

A security guard on duty at China's first private heliport in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province, on Saturday. [China Daily]

The club is affiliated to a private heliport opened last Saturday in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province, under the Ruohang Transportation Development Co.

"Our membership plan will be formally made known to the public this weekend and its initial terms for receiving application will be mainly targeted at those interested in flying or wanting to buy helicopters," Lu Yong, the executive director of Ruohang, told China Daily yesterday.

Lu said the club received hundreds of calls from people asking about the price of buying or renting a helicopter since the heliport was launched.

"We'll tailor a specific membership mechanism according to the application results and market demand," Lu said, adding only 10 percent of the total number of applicants would be given a membership initially.

The new helicopter base, worth 160 million yuan (US$23.4 million), is the size of about 15 football fields, having facilities such as landing sites, helicopter maintenance, flight training, operating business flights, hosting wedding ceremonies in the air, medical rescue, aerial photography and firefighting.

The company's only helicopter can accommodate six to eight people, which will increase to nine by the end of this year, Lu said. The hourly rental for a helicopter is about 30,000 yuan.

The country's general aviation industry, or flights other than military and scheduled airline flights, holds huge potential, Lu said.

So far, there are only 132 civilian helicopters in China, while the United States has more than 10,000 helicopters and Brazil nearly 500, according to statistics from China Aviation Industry Corp, a major Chinese aviation manufacturer.

According to official figures, China will require 1,830 general aviation helicopters by 2013.

Liu Zheng, a senior consultant, said: "The development of the helicopter industry for the general aviation sector will speed up national economic growth and create more jobs, besides providing domestic and foreign plane makers with huge business opportunities."

Ruohang planned to construct more heliports in China's developed cities such as Suzhou, Shanghai and Hangzhou, creating an air transportation network connecting Yangtze River Delta to other parts of the country.

According to the company, the 120-million-yuan Suzhou heliport will be ready later this year, and functional by 2010.

(China Daily March 11, 2009)

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