Hummingbird Yi (乙)

Zhu Hummingbird

republic of china flag Republic of China (1948)
Prototype Helicopter – 2 Built

The Hummingbird was a prototype helicopter developed by the Republic of China in 1944 to 1948. Inspiration for the Hummingbird was mostly from designs of other nations. The Hummingbird was to be used in a light reconnaissance role. The development ended when the Taiwanese lost the Civil War and evacuated to Taiwan.


The origins of the Hummingbird began in 1944, when the American 14th Air Force stationed in Kunming received a shipment of Sikorsky R-6As and R-4s. The Americans put up an airshow to boost troop morale using the new R-4 helicopters. Amongst the spectators were Zhu Jiaren (朱家仁), one of the managers at the First Aviation Factory. He was fascinated by the R-4 and decided to design a helicopter of his own. He began sketches and basic designs of a helicopter in that same year. He successfully made a 1/10 windtunnel model for testing, but no data was recorded. Despite building a 1/10 model, Zhu didn’t understand the details of helicopter design and the project stagnated.

After the Second Sino-Japanese War ended in 1945, the American and European countries declassified their helicopter designs, and the Republic of China was able to receive some of these plans. Zhu studied them and gained valuable information, finalizing his designs in 1948 and personally overseeing the production of the first Hummingbird prototype. This was a great moment in Chinese aviation history as it was the first helicopter made by the Chinese.

The first Hummingbird prototype was completed in March of 1948 and was designated Jia (甲). Zhu was satisfied with the result, and ordered stationary tests to commence right away. Unfortunately, due to an accident, the sole prototype of the Hummingbird was destroyed. However, the pilot survived and gave valuable suggestions and ideas to improve the design. Then later in July, another prototype was produced and was designated Yi (乙). The new prototype had a redesigned cockpit with improved visibility, allowing the pilot to see the ground. It also had an improved aerodynamic design, which theoretically offered improved performance over the Jia model. The Yi model also partook in stationary tests, and experienced no mishaps. The Yi was later abandoned in mainland China as the Nationalists retreated to Taiwan. The fate of the Yi is unknown.


The Hummingbird helicopter was a tailless lightweight helicopter meant for reconnaissance. It featured two helicopter blades on the same transmission, a uncommon design at that time. It was a single seater helicopter with the sides of the cockpit open.

The fuselage of the two Hummingbirds could be best described as an elongated teardrop shape. The shape of the helicopter was quite different compared to the helicopters of other nations at the time. It mainly used American sourced flight instrumentation (tachometer, altimeter, etc.).


Only two prototypes were ever made. Variants Jia (甲) and Yi (乙 ). Jia was lost in a accident during flight tests and the fate of the Yi is unknown. Nothing else was produced due to the evacuation of the designers to Taiwan.

The Jia was produced in March of 1948, with the Yi being produced in July of 1948.


Testing of the Jia:

Shortly after the Jia was completed, the designers did not immediately want to commence flight tests. The engineers first wanted to test the helicopter blades at different throttle speeds. The landing gear of the Hummingbird was fastened to a steel anchor plate using ropes. The helicopter started up its engine and achieved an altitude of 1 meter. While testing the blade speed, a ground anchor was pulled loose from its mooring in the soft ground. The Hummingbird immediately tilted left and crashed on the ground, destroying the sole prototype. The pilot however, was relatively unharmed thanks to a seat belt.

Testing of the Yi:

Learning from the mistakes made during the Jia’s test, the designers reinforced the ground anchors. The helicopter successfully hovered at 1 meter and the blade speed was tested. The helicopter was scheduled for actual flight tests, but it was cancelled due to the pilot’s complaint that the helicopter’s equipment and flight instruments would shake and rattle uncontrollably at full throttle. This could have been due to the prototype’s crude motor, a rough running Kinner B-5 radial engine, a design dating back to the 1930s. The helicopter was then grounded until further improvements could be made.


The Hummingbird showed great potential at being an effective reconnaissance helicopter. The engineers and designers calculated that the helicopter’s performance would be equal to or greater than the performance of other helicopters developed at the time. In late 1948, the tide of the war turned against the favor of the Nationalists. Mass evacuation of equipment, troops, and strategic supplies was occurring and The First Aviation Factory was evacuated, along with Zhu.

After arriving in Taiwan, Zhu requested that the Hummingbird helicopter to be shipped over so he could continue developing it. However, the Republic of China Air Force denied his request due to an unfortunate technicality. The Hummingbird technically belonged to the Kunming Airfield, which was owned by the Air Force, and not to the First Aviation Factory. Due to this, the Hummingbird was never shipped over and met an unknown fate.

With the knowledge gained from the Hummingbird, Zhu later developed the CJC-3, another helicopter.


Jia (甲) aka Model A: This was the original model which began development in 1944. This model had poor visibility from the cockpit, and a large airframe. Powered by a Kinner B-5 engine.

Yi () aka Model B: Second prototype with a redesigned fuselage and better aerodynamic design. This version had a window in the lower front quarter of the cockpit, which allowed the pilot to observe the ground. It retained the same engine, equipment and helicopter blade layout.

Hummingbird Jia Specifications

Engine: 1x Kinner B-5 (125hp)
Maximum Speed (Level Flight): 136km/h
Propeller Length 7.62m
Empty Takeoff Weight: 589.5kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 725.5kg
Height: 2.63m
Length: 2.34m
Maximum Climb Rate: 910m
Maximum Range: 219km
Crew: 1x Pilot


Hummingbird Jia (甲)
Hummingbird Jia (甲)
Hummingbird Yi (乙)
Hummingbird Yi (乙)
Chu Hummingbird Jia
Chu Hummingbird Jia
Chu Hummingbird Yi
Chu Hummingbird Yi


Wei G, Cheng Y, Zhang W (2014) [Hummingbird Jia/Yi] [Zhong Guo Fei Ji Quan Shu]Stargazer2006. (2011). The Chu « Hummingbird »: earliest Chinese/Taiwanese helicopter. Stingray’s List of Rotorcraft.Qing, L. (2017). Hummingbird., Images: Side Profile Views by Ed Jackson –


About Leo Guo

Leo Guo is an avid aviation enthusiast based in Canada. Having a particular interest in German and Chinese aviation, Leo has contributed numerous articles for Plane Encyclopedia, of which he holds the position of team manager, head writer and co-owner.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.