City Of Wuhan Triggers $28 Million Deal For Planes, Helicopters
With a promise of “bringing jobs back to America,” officials with the city of Wuhan, China and Federal Aerospace Holdings Group on Tuesday announced agreements to purchase 100 fixed- and rotary -wing aircraft from area manufacturers, including 50 Liberty Aerospace XL2s.
The announcement holds the promise for a long-term, lucrative relationship for Space Coast aircraft and avionics suppliers to China’s vast new general aviation market. China, which historically limited flights to commercial and military aircraft, plans to open all its airspace to general aviation flights by 2015. “We are very excited not just about today, but about the long-term prospects for Wuhan and the Space Coast,” said Chad Lewis, managing director of North America for Federal Aerospace, who estimated the fiscal impact in jobs and manufacturing at $28 million.
Federal Aerospace Holding Group LLC, a U.S. investment firm specializing in the development of the Chinese general aviation market, arranged the delegation’s visit to the United States. Preliminary plans are for the China Aviation Industrial Base to purchase 50 XL2, two-seat training/touring aircraft from Melbourne-based Liberty Aerospace and 50 four-seat helicopters, which Federal Aerospace will acquire from U.S. manufacturers.
“We are genuinely excited about this,” said Paul M. Bartlett, Liberty president and CEO. “The relationship formed today will enable Liberty Aerospace to enter the growing Chinese general aviation market.”
Plans are for flight training to occur on the Space Coast, as well. The officials also toured the Florida Institute of Technology’s flight operations building at the Melbourne International Airport and Bristow Academy in Titusville on Tuesday.
Wuhan Vice Secretary General Li Zuoqing and Melbourne Mayor Harry Goode formalized cooperative agreements among Wuhan, Melbourne and the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast at a news conference held the airport. Wuhan, a city of more than 10 million, is a major transportation hub for central China, and has recently been identified by the Chinese government as an aviation city. Tuesday’s event also established Wuhan and Melbourne as “friendship” cities, the first step to the more formal “sister” city relationship. “These meetings are the next step in our partnership with China,” said Lynda Weatherman, president & CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. “The Space Coast encompasses the highly skilled workforce and manufacturing base to meet the City of Wuhan’s product needs, and we look forward to enhancing opportunities between this aviation city and the Space Coast’s aviation
Future orders from China could bring capital and jobs to a region still struggling to overcome the end of NASA’s shuttle program. Much of the effort to replace the lost shuttle jobs has been focused on developing the region’s aviation manufacturing and maintenance industry. Melbourne International Airport is home to a number of such companies including Liberty. “We are proud to host this historic announcement, which is pivotal in the development of the region as a major international aviation manufacturing and maintenance hub,” said Richard Ennis, airport executive director.
The five-person Chinese delegation arrived in Brevard County around midday and met with a number of local aviation companies and flight schools relative to additional joint economic development opportunities.
The delegation included Li Zuoqing, Wuhan Vice Secretary General, Li Qiang, Secretary of the Jiang-Xia Borough, Xiong Yi-Pei, Deputy Commissioner of the Wuhan Development and Reform Commission, Li Chao, Deputy Director of the Wuhan Trade Promotion Commission, and Yang Da Sheng, SVP of International Sales for Federal Aerospace (Wuhan) General Aviation Ltd.
The Chinese officials are part of a larger delegation currently touring the United States. On Thursday, the full delegation is scheduled to be in Chicago where additional agreements involving the Space Coast will be signed, Lewis said.
(Liberty XL2 Images from file)