The AC352 medium-lift utility helicopter has been cleared for commercial operation in China, with project managers seeing huge potential for the aircraft in a wide range of public services and businesses.
At a ceremony in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, on Tuesday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China granted the Aviation Industry Corp of China's Harbin Aircraft Industry an approval certificate for the AC352, also known as Z-15.
The approval marked the successful completion of research and development and flight testing, giving AVIC the green light for mass production and delivery of the helicopter to users.
The AC352, China's first 7-metric-ton-class helicopter, was co-developed by AVIC and Airbus Helicopters in 2006. It made its first flight in December 2016 in Harbin.
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 in a single flight, according to AVIC.
The State-owned aviation conglomerate said the AC352 is one of the most comfortable and environmentally friendly medium-sized helicopters in the world. It can transport two pilots and as many as 16 passengers.
Lu Weijian, chief designer of AC352, said the aircraft has many uses, including search and rescue, personnel transportation, medical airlifts and chartered flights.
Liu Yongsheng, deputy head engineer at Harbin Aircraft Industry, said mass production will begin soon, and many buyers are eagerly awaiting delivery. The first of a batch of mass-produced AC352s is scheduled to be assembled around the end of this year and will be delivered to a government user in 2024, Liu said.
The European model, which Airbus Helicopters refers to as the H175, made its maiden flight in December 2009 in France and was certified in January 2014 by the European Aviation Safety Agency. Deliveries to buyers began in December 2014, according to Airbus Helicopters.