China OKs jointly built civil helicopter but no nod yet for Airbus' version

BEIJING/SYDNEY, July 26 (Reuters) - China has granted certification to the AC352 utility helicopter it is jointly producing with Airbus AIR.PA , state media said on Tuesday, even as the European planemaker awaits Beijing's nod to sell its foreign-made equivalent in the Asian nation.

Developed by Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and Airbus, the AC352 is the locally produced variant of the Airbus H175, which has been in service since 2015 outside China and is designed to perform search and rescue, emergency medical services and law enforcement missions.

A certification ceremony was held in Harbin on Tuesday, CCTV reported.

The Airbus H175 has yet to gain entry into the Chinese market, as it awaits validation from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

Airbus announced in 2019 that China's Ministry of Transport has decided to expand its medium class search and rescue helicopter fleet with the H175, beginning with a deal for two aircraft, but no regulatory approval has been forthcoming.

Industry sources told Reuters the entry of new foreign products into China has been slow because CAAC, triggered by a desire to learn and pass on the knowledge to its own manufacturers, is taking a zero-risk approach due to elevated geopolitical tensions between China and Western countries.

The Airbus A220 aircraft, a popular smaller narrowbody model, and the Embraer E2 regional jet have not yet gained Chinese certification after years of service abroad.

CAAC and Airbus did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

AVIC and Airbus signed in 2014 a joint production agreement for 1,000 AC352s.

The helicopter is powered by the turboshaft WZ16 engine, developed by state-run engine-maker Aero Engine Corporation of China and Safran Helicopter Engines. It was the first helicopter engine certified by both Chinese and European authorities.

The Airbus H175 is powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.

Domestically, the 90-seat ARJ21 regional jet, a rival to the A220 and the Embraer E2, is ramping up production and deliveries after receiving big orders from state-run Chinese airlines.

China is also in the process of certifying for use its C919 aircraft, the first homegrown narrowbody jet designed to challenge Airbus and Boeing BA.N .
Reporting by Stella Qiu in Beijing and Jamie Freed in Sydney; Additional reporting by Albee Zhang in Beijing; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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