Air Transportation: China Goes Solo


March 24, 2010:  China's first locally designed transport helicopter, the AC313, made its first flight recently. The AC313 is in the same class as the British AW101 (a 15 ton aircraft that can carry five tons of cargo or 20 troops, with a top speed of 300 kilometers an hour and endurance is about four hours.) The AC313 is a 13 ton helicopter that can carry four tons of cargo or 27 troops. The design can be modified to create a 15 ton helicopter that can carry five tons of cargo.

China has been very pragmatic in developing its aviation industry. It has licensed, or copied, the design of existing military and commercial aircraft. Licensing is preferred because that brings in foreign technology and specialized tools and machines needed to build world class equipment. Developing this stuff yourself is expensive, time consuming, and prone to error. Thus for the last few decades, China has been building French designs under license. As a result, the AC313 shows many similarities to French helicopters (like the Cougar EC725, an 11 ton aircraft with a useful load of 5.5 tons, a top speed of 324 kilometers an hour, endurance of about five hours), but is purely a local design, using Chinese made components.



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