People take a close look at the AC352 utility helicopter after it finished its maiden flight in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, on Tuesday.
China is able to develop and produce best civilian helicopters, designer says
China conducted the maiden flight of a new utility helicopter on Tuesday morning in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, which designers said indicates the nation has become a top developer of civilian helicopters.
The silver AC352 made a 10-minute flight as hundreds of government and military officials, researchers and workers as well as representatives from Airbus Helicopters watched at Harbin Aircraft Industry Group, a manufacturer of the helicopter.
As China's first 7-metric-ton class helicopter, the AC352 was codeveloped by Avicopter, parent company of Harbin Aircraft Industry, and Airbus Helicopters, starting in 2006. The two sides expect to sell about 800 to 1,000 AC352s - which Airbus Helicopters refers to as H175 - over the coming 20 years, with the profit from sales to be split equally, Avicopter officials said.
The helicopter has a maximum takeoff weight of 7.5 tons and a cruise speed of 280 kilometers per hour, while its flight range is at least 1,000 km, according to Avicopter.
Avicopter said the AC352 is one of the most comfortable and eco-friendly medium-sized helicopters in the world, adding that in addition to two pilots, the helicopter can transport up to 16 passengers.
Lu Weijian, chief designer of the AC352 at Avicopter, said his company is responsible for a lot of the helicopter's major components, such as the main rotor and flight control system.
"This shows that China is now able to develop and produce the best civilian helicopters," he told reporters after the maiden flight ceremony. "We cooperated with our European partner on this project because both sides believed that such collaboration would make full use of our capabilities, and reduce business and technology risks."
Yang Guangchao, project manager of the AC352 at Avicopter, said that Western helicopter giants such as Airbus Helicopters are willing to work with China because it has become a strong player in the helicopter industry.
Cao Shengli, general manager of Harbin Aircraft Industry, said the AC352 can carry out multiple operations, such as offshore transport, search and rescue, police patrol and medical air services. He added that the helicopter will be delivered to domestic users around 2018.
The European model, the H175, made its maiden flight in December 2009 in France and was certified in January 2014 by the European Aviation Safety Agency. It started to be delivered to buyers in December 2014, according to Airbus Helicopters.
However, some technological issues related to the Chinese version's engine resulted in a delay in its test flight, Yang said.