Chinese Z-8AWJS crashes during aerial firefighting mission

A Changhe Z-8AWJS multi-role utility helicopter belonging to the Chinese People’s Armed Police-Forestry Corps crashed into Erhai Lake in Dali City – located in China’s Yunnan Province – on May 10.

The helicopter – serial WJ56038 (c/n Z8AWJS-08) – was attempting to scoop water from the lake using a bambi bucket to clear and irrigate an area on Dashaba Mountain in Wanqiao Village – located in Wanqiao Town, Dali City – that had been burnt by a forest fire.

Chinese Z-8K [Key Archive]
A Chinese-made Changhe Z-8K multi-role utility helicopter in search and rescue configuration. Key Archive

At 1018hrs (local time), while the aircraft was still descending over the lake, it suddenly began to spin uncontrollably and rapidly descended. The aircraft’s tail boom broke off in an explosion before the Z-8AWJS hit the water. The helicopter’s two pilots were killed in the incident and the remaining two crew members are still reported to be missing.

Manufactured by the Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation, the Z-8 is a license-built variant of the Aérospatiale SA321 Super Frelon three-engined heavy-lift tactical transport helicopter. The SA321 and the Z-8 have been operated by a number of Chinese military and parapublic services since the mid-1970s.