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Helicopter begins mass production

By Zhao Lei in Tianjin | China Daily | Updated: 2023-09-15 09:24

An AC332 multifunctional helicopter is on display at the sixth China Helicopter Exposition in Tianjin on Thursday. [Photo by Kuang Linhua/China Daily]

Aviation Industry Corp of China, the nation's leading aircraft maker, has started the mass production of its AC352 medium-lift utility helicopter and plans to deliver them to users in 2024, according to a manager on the project.

"The assembly of the first mass-produced AC352 has gotten underway at our manufacturing facility in Tianjin starting this year. Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Administration of China has started the aircraft type's production certification process. The helicopter's mass production and certification are taking place simultaneously," Yang Guangzhao, deputy general manager of AVIC Tianjin Helicopter, told China Daily in an exclusive interview on Wednesday in Tianjin.

"According to the project's schedule, the certification work will be completed next year, and we will deliver the first AC352s to domestic users before the end of 2024," he said.

Yang said the aircraft has advanced technologies and world-class capability and is able to undertake many tasks such as search and rescue, emergency response, personnel transportation, medical airlift and chartered flights.

The AC352, China's first 7-metric-ton-class helicopter, was codeveloped by AVIC and Airbus Helicopters. Work began on the helicopter in 2006 and it made its first flight in December 2016 in Harbin.

In July last year, the Civil Aviation Administration of China conferred the type approval certificate on the AC352, marking the successful completion of the helicopter's research, development and test flights.

Propelled by two turboshaft engines, the helicopter has a maximum takeoff weight of 7.5 tons, a maximum carrying capacity of 3 tons and a cruising speed of about 280 kilometers per hour. It can fly up to 850 km on a single flight, according to AVIC.

According to AVIC, the AC352 is one of the most comfortable and environmentally friendly medium-sized helicopters in the world.

Operated by two pilots, it can transport up to 16 passengers inside its 12-cubic-meter cabin.

In another development, Yang said the AC332, a new multifunctional helicopter for civilian use, especially on plateaus, has been carrying out extensive test flights since its debut in April.

"We expect the helicopter's certification work to be finished in 2025 and we will start delivery after that," he noted.

AVIC Tianjin Helicopter has signed orders for dozens of AC332s with several buyers including Poly Aviation Technologies in Beijing and Heligolden Aviation in Yunnan province.

Propelled by two high-power, fuel-efficient engines, the AC332 has a maximum takeoff weight of about 3.9 metric tons and is capable of carrying 12 people — two pilots and 10 passengers. It has a maximum cruising speed of 260 km/h and a maximum range of 693 km.

When deployed on a plateau with an altitude of 4,500 meters, it will be able to carry passengers or supplies with a combined weight of 600 kilograms and travel 600 km.

Wu Peixin, an aviation industry observer in Beijing, said the AC352 and AC332 are urgently needed by domestic users involved in search and rescue and emergency response.

"The government has been striving to establish an efficient, rapid response and rescue system, and has repeatedly called for the accelerated development and deployment of domestically made hardware. The two helicopter types will play an important role in the system," he said.

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