PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus Helicopters, the world's largest supplier of commercial helicopters, has started building an assembly line in China in what Europe's largest aerospace group said was a key step in its plans to tap into the Chinese market.
The company's final assembly line will be located in Qingdao, eastern China, with construction expected to be completed by 2018.
An Airbus framework agreement signed in 2016 called for 100 H135 helicopters to be assembled over the next 10 years, and the first aircraft roll-out from Qingdao is planned for mid-2019.
China is opening up its low-level airspace to civilian aircraft, which could see increasing numbers of helicopters being ordered, with the H135 already used in China for medical services and police surveillance.
Guillaume Faury, chief executive of Airbus Helicopters, said in a statement that the start of construction demonstrated the company's "commitment to further enhancing our industrial co-operation with China's rapidly growing aviation industry".
Airbus Helicopters is a division of planemaker and aerospace group Airbus, whose main rival is Boeing.
Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by David Clarke