Harbin Aviation Industry Company delivered the first EC175 airframe to the Eurocopter factory in Harbin, China on Nov 15. The EC175, designated Z15 in China, is a 16-passenger medium twin helicopter. The EC175/Z15 is a joint program of Eurocopter and Harbin Aviation Industry Company, and stems from a cooperation contract signed in Dec 2005. Plans call for delivery of the first airframe to Eurocopter in Marignane, France for assembly and maiden flight by the end of 2009. EASA certification is anticipated in 2011, with Chinese certification following in 2012.

Sikorsky has awarded a $17-million contract to Air Methods for the completion of 48 HH60M Black Hawks for the US Army. These helicopters will be used as EMS aircraft and will help to modernize the Army's fleet. With standard EMS equipment, the helicopters will be capable of transporting up to 6 patients. They will also have high-intensity NVG and FLIR systems.

Eurocopter secured 15 orders at the annual Air Show China in Zhuhai. Orders came from Citic Offshore Helicopters, of which Eurocopter is a shareholder with 21% of the company, and with Allyway. Citic's 10 EC155B1 Dauphins will go to service the company's offshore oil operations. The order of 5 AS350B3s Ecureuils by Allyway marks the launch of the aircraft in China. These helicopters will be used in Allyway's powerline and pipeline surveillance work.

Bristow is restructuring its Gulf of Mexico operations in order to better support deep-water drilling operations. In switching up to medium and heavy twin-engine helicopters, the company has sold 53 of its existing small and medium-size helicopters to Rotorcraft Leasing in a deal valued at $65 million. Sale of the aircraft was finalized on Oct 31 and included associated assets and bases. Rotorcraft Leasing will also take over the existing contracts to which those helicopters were tied. In the next few years Bristow will take delivery of 14 helicopters it ordered in July in a deal that also included 9 options. The 14 firm orders consist of Eurocopter EC135s and EC225s, Sikorsky S76s and S92s. While all will not necessarily go to serve Bristow's Gulf of Mexico operations, Bristow Senior VP Western Hemisphere Mark Duncan says some will end up there. "We are moving away from shallow-water operations into deeper water," he explains. "We used to serve the whole market in the Gulf of Mexico but are now refocusing our business."

Saudi Aramco has placed its first AgustaWestland AW139 medium twin helicopter into service. The company will eventually operate 14 AW139s in support of oil and gas operations in Saudi Arabia. They will join a fleet of 7 AW109 Powers delivered in 2005-06. AgustaWestland says it has received more than 430 orders for the AW139 and has delivered nearly 200.

LifeLine Critical Care Transport has ordered 4 Eurocopter EC145s. Lifeline is responsible for all emergency flight and ground operations for Methodist Hospital and Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis IN. The EMS service is scheduled to receive the first of the new EC145s early next year. They will replace the 4 Eurocopter/Kawasaki BK117s it currently operates.