Bell Helicopter sees China as the brightest spot in its Asian universe. A recent burst of orders there will likely triple its in-country fleet from 120 today to nearly 400 over the next few years.

For Bell, the beginning of the China helicopter boom came at exactly the right time, after a few years of just modest success not only in China but also in the surrounding region. The refreshed 407GXP light single with Garmin glass cockpit caught buyers’ attention, and the brand-new Bell 505 Jet Ranger X light single hit the right point on the price/performance charts, says Jose Jacinto Monge, the company’s managing director for China.

He noted that the new models fit right in to China’s emerging requirements for emergency medical helicopters, and aircraft for utility work and aerial tourism. At the same time, despite China’s austerity measurers, there is a growing demand for corporate and air taxi helicopters.

In the last year, Bell has taken orders for 100 Bell 407GXP light single-engine helicopters for Shaanxi Energy Group and Xi’an Helicopter, to be delivered over the next five years, and 110 of the 505 Jet Ranger X for Reignwood Investment, with first delivery in the first quarter of this year.

The first two 407GXPs for Shaanxi have been delivered. Most of those delivered through 2018 will be in air ambulance configuration, says Monge, and outfitted by a U.S. specialist. Helicopters in the order will also be applied to emergency search, forest fire control, police enforcement, tourism and public transport, depending on the needs of Shaanxi province.

With large deliveries into China, Bell and its partners could consider final assembly there of the 407GXP. “There’s a grand plan, and aspirations” says Monge, “but certain steps have to be taken over the next five years, such as developing maintenance, repair and overhaul [and] services and training. First you crawl, then walk, then run.” One of the initial steps will be the setting up by Reignwood of a completions and delivery facility for the Bell 505.

Bell Helicopter’s fleet in mainland China at the end of 2017 comprised 60 407s, 41 Jet Rangers/Long Rangers, 15 twin-engine 429s, and five other various types, according to the soon-to-be released Helicopter Fleet Report by Hong Kong consultants Asian Sky Group.

Monge notes that China now has about 600 civil-use helicopters, “and with growth of about 15% a year that should soon top 1,000. It’s not a small market by any means.” Bell, according to its current order book, could well deliver 210 of that projected increase of 400 helicopters.