PLA Army Aviation Corps test pilots have completed the last airworthiness verification item with the AC313 three-engine civil helicopter in heavy rain in late March, marking the successful completion of the onboard test flight and airworthiness verification of China’s first homemade large civil helicopter.
Despite claims that the AC313 been independently developed and manufactured by Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the Chinese design has clearly been “inspired” by the Aerospatiale (now Eurocopter) Super Frelon SA321. China purchased a dozen Super Frelons back in the 1970s and subsequently built its own variant, designated Z-8.
Modifications introduced on the AC313 in relation to the original Super Frelon include changes to the nose and fuselage, composite main rotor blades and multi-function cockpit displays. The installation of more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6B-67A engines has resulted in an 800kg increase in maximum takeoff weight (13.8t).
The AC313 made its first flight seven years ago and was certified in December 2011. It is one of the few helicopters authorised to operate in the Tibetan Plateau and is reported to have been tested at altitudes up to 8,500m.