Chinese domestic production of civil helicopters is set to grow, but not as quickly as the country’s authorities predict, according to a local market analyst. Matthieu Devoisselle, co-founder of Avia-Tek, a Shanghai-based aerospace consultancy firm specializing in emerging countries, regards government forecasts as unrealistic. But Chinese manufacturer Avicopter does have reason to be optimistic, he adds.
Aérospatiale Super Frelon
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) certified the country’s “new” home-grown heavy-lift helicopter on January 9. Built at state-owned Avic, the AC313 tips the scales at 27,600 pounds, can carry up to 27 people and has a maximum ferry range of 485 nm and a service ceiling near 28,000 feet. The AC313 appears to be an outgrowth of the 14,000-pound Chinese Zhi-8. That medium helicopter is based on the 1970s-vintage Aérospatiale SA321 Super Frelon.
Yesterday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) certified the country’s “new” homegrown heavy-lift helicopter, the AC313. It tips the scales at 27,600 pounds, can carry up to 27 people and has a maximum ferry range of 560 miles and service ceiling of nearly 28,000 feet. The helicopter was built by state-owned Avic, the same company that recently made Chinese-market Sikorsky S-76 airframes under contract.
China is expected to modify its low-altitude airspace restrictions over the
next few years, a move that could trigger demand for more than 1,000 new civil helicopters there over the next two decades. Part of its strategy for meeting that demand appears to be leveraging current and future relations with established Western helicopter manufacturers to build its own helicopter industry.
Last week China flew a new home-grown heavy-lift helicopter for the first time. The AC313 tips the scales at 27,600 pounds, can carry up to 27 people, has a maximum ferry range of 560 miles and was built at state-owned AVIC, the same company making Sikorsky S-76C++ airframes. The AC313 appears to be an outgrowth of the 14,000-pound Chinese Zhi-8. That medium helicopter is based on the 1970s-vintage Aérospatiale SA321 Super Frelon.
Safran’s helicopter subsidiary Turbomeca could be back in the contest to provide the powerplant for the Z15 helicopter following China’s recent decision to re-evaluate the engine. Late last year, executives with Eurocopter’s EC 175 program indicated that discussions are under way for the possible launch of a new engine for the Chinese version of the medium twin.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is generally seen as the next big market for the helicopter industry–OEMs, operators, training schools and maintenance operations alike. But can we expect the skies over China to be black with whirling blades any time soon?