Through the Z-5 project the Chinese obtained valuable knowledge and experience in helicopter design and development. Soon after the Z-5 project completed, China began its efforts to develop an indigenous helicopter independently. In 1966, Harbin began the initial studies on the first indigenous helicopter Z-6.
Compared to the Z-5/Mi-4, the Z-6 helicopter possesses many advanced features, including a 1,618 kW Wozhou-5 turboshaft engine and re-designed blades and fuselage to achieve better performance in highland regions, larger payload, and less vibration and noise. The Z-6 also borrows many mature features and technologies from the Z-5’s designs, including the rear hatch, tail boom and fin.
The Z-6 was mainly designed to carry airborne troops in the frontline, with a fuselage to accommodate 12 soldiers. It has a maximum take-off weight of 7,600 kg, a payload of 1,200 kg, a maximum speed of 192 km/h and a ferry range of 651 km.
The first prototype (No.6001) of the Z-6 was completed in 1967 for static tests. In 1968, the Z-6 project obtained officially authorization from the PLA and Chinese Government. On 25 December 1969 the second Z-6 prototype No.6002 made its first flight. From 1970, the Z-6 programme was relocated to the newly founded Changhe Aircraft Factory (now Changhe/Jingdezhen Aircraft Industry Corporation ) in Jiangdezhen, Jiangxi, which later became the second largest helicopter manufacturer in China.
The Z-6 helicopter was type classified in 1977, with 15 helicopters already built. However, despite being a technologically successful design, the Z-6 programme was later cancelled due to various reasons, including unsatisfying performance and poor reliability.
The failure of the Z-6 programme resulted in a serious setback in the development of the Chinese helicopter industry. The following projects of the Z-6, including the Z-7 utility helicopter programme, the 701 lightweight helicopter programme, and the reverse engineering on the French SA 316/318 Alouette and SA 315B Lama all went nowhere. For a considerable period of time the obsolete Z-5 remained the only primary helicopter fleet in service with the Chinese military and civil aviation.
The restoration of the relationship between the Communism China and the West in the late 1970s on the basis of anti-USSR alliance gave the Chinese another chance to boost its helicopter industry. From 1978 to 1989, the Chinese helicopter industry took part in a series of international co-operations with Western partners including:
At the same time, the establishment of the PLA Army Aviation Corps in 1988 and the boosting economy has stimulated the Chinese helicopter industry to grow rapidly, which has resulted in the introduction of Z-8, Z-9, and Z-11 helicopter.