August 2019

Republic of China Air Force Helicopters

Major General Chia-Jen Chu was a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Class of 1926. Upon his return back to China, he started designing China’s first homebuilt trainer Su Zhou in 1930, which took off in 1937 — during the Imperial Japanese invasion of China (1931-1945).

While holding a position of general manager at the Chinese Air Force’s first aircraft manufacturing factory at Kunming, Yunnan Province, in 1944, Major General Chu saw a U.S. Army helicopter (a Sikorsky R-4 or R-6A) fly over the city. Then, he was instantly inspired and fascinated by rotary-wing aircraft. He started designing a coaxial helicopter using a 1/10-scale model at home to perform a series of experimental tests in 1944.

One year later the Hummingbird Model A or CJC-1A was built. The CJC-1A was a tricycle-landing-gear coaxial rotor helicopter. During a tie-down test accident, both upper and lower blades of the CJC-1A struck the ground; the pilot was unharmed due to his seat belt keeping him inside the cockpit. Four months later the Hummingbird Model B or CJC-1B was built, which had a better aerodynamically-shaped fuselage and additional transparencies for the pilot, improved field of view for landing. Both coaxial helicopters’ existences and technical information are remaining unknown until today as Major General Chu was ordered to relocate with the Nationalist China government to Taiwan in 1949 without either aircraft.

Major General Chu maintained his passion in helicopter design in Taiwan and succeeded to design a tandem rotor helicopter, the Banana CJC-3, in 1952. On June 10, 1953, the CJC-3 hovered out of ground effect for the first time. CJC-3A had two 25 ft (7.6 m) diameter rotors. Its empty weight was about 1,500 lb (680 kg) and the gross weight is estimated to be 2,050 lb (930 kg), with a useful payload of 550 lb (225 kg).

Photos: All photos © Dr. Richard Chu family, used with permission. No further use is permitted.

Text: Jacques Virasak

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