China's first locally designed and produced helicopter, the Jingdezhen Z-11, had its maiden flight at the end of December. The six- to seven-seat machine has been developed as a general-purpose helicopter for use by civil and military operators.

Aviation Industries of China (AVIC) plans call for local airworthiness certification and delivery of the first production Z-11 in 1999.

The first prototype Z-11 was flown on 26 December at Jingdezhen Helicopter's (formerly Changhe Aircraft) main plant in Jiangxi province. It will be followed by a further four to five test helicopters, says the company.

According to local sources, the first machines will go to the army for training and light observation. Other Government agencies which are likely to take the helicopter include the police, fire and forestry departments.

Superficially, the 2t-class machine resembles the Eurocopter AS350 Ecureuil. The helicopter has a three-bladed main rotor, a conventional tail rotor, a horizontal stabiliser, lower and upper vertical stabilisers and a skid-type landing gear.

The Z-11 is powered by a single 510kW (685shp) Liming WZ-8D turboshaft engine.

The helicopter's specifications include a maximum design speed of 130kt (240km/h), a service ceiling of 17,180ft (5,240m), a range of 600km (325nm) and continuous endurance of 3.9h.

According to AVIC, the helicopter is intended to bridge the gap between the smaller 1.5t-class EC120, in which Chinese industry has a 24% stake, and the larger Eurocopter AS365, built under licence as the Z-9 by Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing.

Development of the indigenously designed helicopter has been under study by AVIC since 1991, but is appears the Z-11 was not given a full go-ahead until 1994. Sikorsky is understood to have acted as a technical consultant to Jingdezhen.

Source: Flight International