The AC352 is a 7t-class multi-purpose civilian utility helicopter jointly developed by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and Airbus Helicopters. The first prototype of the helicopter was unveiled at China Helicopter Expo in Tianjin n September 2015.

The helicopter equipped with the WZ-16 turbo-shaft engine completed its maiden flight in Harbin in Heilongjiang province, China, in December 2016.

The engine is expected to receive certifications from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) by the end of 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Citic Offshore Helicopter, an oil-and-gas operator, is the launch customer of the AC352 helicopter.

The helicopter is intended to serve civil aviation missions including search-and-rescue, (SAR), medical assistance, as well as transportation of personnel and goods. It will be commercialised to provide services for government and private sectors in the Chinese domestic market.

It is anticipated to face tough competition from AW139 and S-70i in the utility helicopter market. AVIC plans to introduce the military version of AC352 helicopter in near future.

AC352 helicopter design and development features

The airframe of AC352 is derived from the H175 helicopter manufactured by Airbus Helicopters. AVIC designed and developed a number of key components, including main rotor and flight control system, for the AC352 helicopter.

The helicopter includes five composite main rotor blades with titanium flexible rotor head. It offers large payload capacity and long cruising range.

The helicopter has a length of 15.7m, height of 5.3m and rotor diameter of 14.8m. Airbus Helicopters and AVIC signed an agreement for the joint production of 1,000 AC352 helicopters in March 2014.

Airbus Helicopters provides assembling and support services for the production of AC352 from Marignane, France, while AVIC will provide support services for the production of H175 helicopter, under the agreement. The profit from sale of helicopters will be shared equally between the partners.

The AC352 helicopter was co-developed by AVIC’s China Helicopter Research and Development Institute (CHRDI) and AVIC Harbin Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG). The assembly lines for the production of H175/AC352 helicopters are located in France and China.

Airbus also opened customer centres for the helicopter across China at Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, Chengdu, Harbin, and Wuhan.

AC352 helicopter cabin, cockpit and avionics

"The helicopter is intended to serve civil aviation missions including search-and-rescue, (SAR), medical assistance, as well as transportation of personnel and goods."

The helicopter has a spacious and comfortable cabin, which can accommodate up to 18 passengers including two crew members and 16 passengers based on the cabin layout and configuration.

The helicopter is equipped with Helionix® integrated avionics systems. It features four 6x8in multi-function displays and dual-duplex four-axis automatic flight control system.

AC352 helicopter engine and performance

The AC352 is powered by two WZ16 turbo-shaft engines developed by Safran Group in partnership with CAPI and Dongan of Aero Engine Corporation of China (AECC).

Featuring compact modular architecture, the engine can generate a maximum power output of 2,000shp. It consumes 10% lesser fuel compared to other engines in its class.

The cruising speed of the helicopter is 285km/h, while the maximum speed is 315km/h. The maximum range is 1,250km and the maximum altitude is 5,720m.

The empty and maximum take-off weights of the helicopter are 4,750kg 8,000kg respectively.