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Sun, Apr 07, 2024

Chinese Airship, The AS700, Takes Flight

Domestic Chinese Aircraft Shows Off for the Home Front

The Aviation Industry Corporation of China sent up an AS700 airship on its first flight, leaving Wingmen Zhanghe Airport for an hour and 46 minutes as they put the new design through its paces.

The flight marked a first for the aircraft type, apparently completing a ferry flight to the Jingzhou Shashi General Aviation Airport. As is often the case, some confused the ferry flight with a test flight, but the maiden voyage of the AS700 appears to be a completed customer delivery. The single-gondola design sports enough space for 9 passengers with a single pilot, fostering a good deal of interest from the Chinese tourism industry given its affordable piston-powered engines. The AS700 can hit a top speed around 60 mph, with endurance around 10 hours. Max range sits at 700 kilometers, though it would be somewhat unusual to find 9 pax willing to spend that long in the little cabin. 

To date, the company has accumulated 18 orders for the final production model, which should be well on its way since the AS700's type certificate was granted in 2023. There are hints in Chinese media that the design will be pressed beyond simple low-altitude tourism, with emergency rescue, urban public services, and patrol duty possibly seeing their way into future modifications. 

The pilot said everything went nice and smooth, telling reporters that "the performance went very smoothly according to the plan, with sound maneuverability." Zhou Lei, chief designer of the airship project, said the aircraft's communications, loading, take-off, and landing capabilities all bore out what they wanted to see in the production AS700.



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