The Chinese technology sectors continue to push in all new directions as its various services actively work to move away from foreign reliance. Various products are now indigenously designed, developed and produced. With the exception of viable engines of local design, the country is doing well for itself in the sphere of aviation as it grows into a self-sustained world power to rival that of the lead competition.
The AVICopter AC313 ("Changhe Z-8F-100"), a large heavy-lift transport helicopter, entered civilian market service on December 5th, 2013. This product was developed around the need to provide an indigenous, all-modern heavy hauler to undertake multiple roles. The result became the largest rotary-wing creation to ever emerge from Chinese drawing boards and ten have been produced to date (January 2017).
The AC313 was developed from the Harbin Z-8 series (detailed elsewhere on this site), itself nothing more than a Chinese version of the French-made Aerospatiale SA321 "Super Frelon" heavy hauler of 1966 (also detailed elsewhere on this site). As such, the AC313 bears some striking similarities to the French product including its rounded frontal section, high-mounted tail stem and wheeled tricycle undercarriage. In many ways, the AC313 is essentially a modernized, Chinese take on the French 1960s-era helicopter.
The aircraft features a trio of Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6B-67A series engines driving a six-bladed main rotor and five-bladed tail rotor. The main rotor sits atop a short mast and the tail rotor is seated to the portside of the aircraft. The cockpit is aft of the nose assembly and given large windows for good vision out-of-the-cockpit. The fuselage sides are flat and dotted by a row of windows for the passengers. The rear of the fuselage is tapered upwards to allow a cargo door to be fitted. The landing gear legs are fixed in flight and non-retracting. The main legs sit under side sponsons. Construction includes composite materials as well as titanium and, internally, the cockpit sports all-modern, digitally-driven systems. Beyond the two crewmen, there is seating for twenty-seven.
The AC313 is flexible enough to meet several market needs - it can be arranged to carry passengers (including VIP) and cargo loads. Beyond its internal cargo hold where some 8,800 lb of goods can be stored, an external sling fitted under the aircraft can carry an additional 11,000 lb. Beyond this capability is the inherent performance of the powerful helicopter, able to reach high altitude, cold weather areas within Chinese that other products cannot.
Beyond its operation in Chinese skies, the AC313 is set to be offered to customers in both Europe and the United States once certification in these respective regions is achieved.