An upgraded version of China's indigenously developed Z-11 light utility and general purpose helicopter has been flown for the first time.

Built by Changhe Aircraft Industries with assistance from the China Helicopter Design Institute, the Z-11-MB1 flew on 8 March at Jingdezhen in eastern China's Jiangxi province, according to state-run media.

Changhe Aircraft is targeting the domestic market, but also hopes for international sales. It says the helicopter is "particularly suitable for work in hilly areas and atrocious weather conditions, such as in some regions in west China".

The 2,000kg (4,400lb)-classZ-11 is billed as China's first locally made helicopter although it is almost identical externally to the Eurocopter AS350B. The aircraft is powered by a 510kW (685shp) Liming WZ8D turboshaft and first flew in the mid-1990s.

The -MB1 variant is powered by a Turbomeca Arriel 2B1.

China has around 90 helicopters in civil use and forecasts another 200 will be needed by 2010.

Source: Flight International