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New rescue helicopters to improve water safety
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ZHUHAI: The arrival of two massive rescue helicopters in Zhuhai yesterday significantly strengthens maritime rescue and salvage operations on the South China Sea, a senior government official said at the delivery ceremony.

Song Jiahui, director general of the Rescue and Salvage Bureau, discussed the government's plan to create a three-dimensional offshore rescue-and-salvage system.

"We will continue to invest in new helicopters to take full advantage of the modern tool to save people's lives," he said. "There is, without a doubt, no equal to the helicopter, which plays an essential part in ensuring citizens' safety in times of disaster relief." The Ministry of Communications, which oversees the Rescue and Salvage Bureau, ordered the two EC-225 helicopters last year from Eurocopter - the world's largest helicopter manufacturer - at a cost of $25 million each. They weigh more than 10 tons each and are significantly larger than medium-sized helicopters currently used by the bureau, according to Eurocopter Senior Executive Vice President Philippe Harache. The E-225's are also twice as expensive.

The two additions strengthen the ministry's existing fleet of 10 helicopters and one fixed-wing aircraft that serve the First Flying Team of South China Sea, one of China's three air services for maritime rescue.

According to the bureau, the helicopter fleet has flown 518 successful missions and saved 548 lives since the service began in early 2003.

The EC-225 boasts advanced flight controls and autopilot systems, and is capable of search and rescue missions in the worst weather, day or night, Harache said.

With a 40-year market presence in China, Eurocopter expects demand to grow to an all-time high, particularly because the Chinese government wants to increase its public-service capabilities, and because of the booming energy and oil-exploration industries, Harache told China Daily.

Eurocopter is expected to sell 300 helicopters in China by 2015, compared with just 120 orders taken there during the past 40 years, he said.

Eurocopter has more than a 45 percent share in the Chinese civil-helicopter market. In 2006, the company did more than $150 million worth of business on the Chinese mainland, according to Eurocopter figures.

Amid growing demand for quality helicopters, Eurocopter officials are talking with a Zhuhai company in South China's Guangdong Province about the possibility of opening a pilot-training school. And an agreement may be reached by March, Harache said.

(China Daily December 19, 2007)


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