BEIJING (AP) -- State-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China staged a successful maiden test flight Thursday of its self-developed heavy-lift helicopter, the latest advance for the country's ambitious aerospace industry.
The 13.8-ton AC313 can carry 27 passengers or 15 injured on stretchers, and has a maximum range of 560 miles (900 kilometers), according to the Web site of the official People's Daily newspaper. It was successfully test flown Thursday morning in Jiangxi province, the paper said.
The aircraft appears to be larger version of the 7-ton Zhi-8 medium transport helicopter, itself a close copy of the French SA 321 Super Frelon. China bought 13 of the French helicopters in the 70s and at least one was reportedly disassembled for study and reverse-engineering.
China's aerospace spans military jets, commercial airliners, and even a manned space flight program.
The corporation is a central driver of that effort, having already built latest-generation fighter jets and midrange commercial airliners, and now working on a larger plane that would compete with Airbus and Boeing.
At 56 tons, the Russian Mi-26 is far and away the world's largest helicopter, twice as heavy as the American CH-47 Chinook.