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Chinese Aviation History

From 1909 when Feng Ru, an overseas Chinese staying in the United States, successfully launched the trial flight of China's first plane, to 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded, China did not set up its aviation industry. The development of Chinese aircraft started in the middle and late World War II. At that time, Professor Lin Tonghua of the Second Aircraft Manufacturing Plant (Second Aircraft Manufacturing Plant, Haikong Aircraft Plant) of the National Government Aviation Committee led the dozens who had just graduated from the university. A young man, after more than two years of hard work, successfully developed the "Zhongyun No. 1" wooden double-engined medium-sized transport aircraft in August 1944. "Zhongyun 1" had plans to be converted into a bomber, but it could not be implemented due to financial problems. The "Zhongyun 1" aircraft exhibited at the China Aviation Museum was donated by Professor Lin Tonghua who taught at the University of California, Los Angeles.

After "Zhongyun No. 1", it was improved to "Zhongyun No. 2" double-engined transport aircraft. The structure of "Zhongyun No. 2" is generally similar to that of "Zhongyun No. 1", but there are many improvements. The engines are two 9-cylinder air-cooled engines produced by American Pratt and Whitney. On February 19, 1948, "Zhongyun 2" was successfully tested at Chongqing Baishiyi Airport. After that, through continuous improvement of "Zhongyun No. 2", "Zhongyun No. 3" with all-metal structure was developed, with a design speed of 353 kilometers per hour. However, the National Civil War launched by the Kuomintang here was in full swing.

Soon after the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese Communist Party and the people's government put the problem of creating a strong aviation industry atop of its agenda. The world situation and the needs of the national defense prompted the New China to set up its Aviation Industry Bureau on under the Heavy Industry Ministry was founded in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, headed by Duan Zijun April 17, 1951 to make preparation for the plane manufacture industry.

The bureau decided to develop the industry by repairing, imitating, remodeling and then independently designing planes. On July 25, 1954, Nanchang Aircraft Industry Co. produced the Yak-18 CJ-5 trainer and passed the State appraisal. On September 8, 1956, Shenyang Aircraft Industry Co. developed the J-5 (Mig-17) fighter, the first jet fighter in China, and got the approval to manufacture the fighters in batches. In July 1958, the first self-developed JJ-1 jet trainer made a successful test flight in Shenyang, Northeast China's Liaoning Province.

Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai were deeply concerned with and personally involved in the construction of the aviation industry. The guiding principle for aircraft industry development, which was " from repair to copy production and then from copy production to design and manufacturing" , was established by the Premier himself. Historical practice has proved that the guiding principle was correct. It closely combined scientific methodology with revolutionary spirit, learning foreign advanced technology with adhering to self—reliance. Under this guiding principle, the aviation industry had grown from small to large, from low level to higher level. The thirty and more years had seen one after another major achievements in the Chinese aviation industry.

In its early days, the People's Republic had a very poor foundation to start with. There was the Korean War externally and everything to do internally. Under, the extremely difficult financial situation, the Party and the Government resolutely concentrated its man—power and financial resources on aviation industry which had been given the highest priority. Two strategic steps were taken: to train technical personnel from the beginning and to base the aviation industry on domestic materials, which was not an easy task. I was working at that time with the State Council and the State Economic Commission and was deeply aware that the technically complicated aviation industry must be based on the development of the national economy and must be strongly supported by basic industries, so that it could be well established and vigorously develop. The State Economic Commission made great efforts to organize and coordinate the support to the aviation industry by basic industries.

Especially in the early 1960s, when the Soviet Union broke off the contract and withdrew its experts, special measures were taken in time to solve the problem of domestic material supply. These policies and measures taken by the Party's Central Committee and the State Council turned out a complete success. The Chinese aviation industry developed quickly into a burgeoning industry of considerable scale. It produced batches of aircraft to arm the Chinese Air Force and Navy and to equip the Chinese airlines. It also boosted the technical progress of the Chinese raw and processed material industry and machine building, and provided favourable conditions for the start of the Chinese rocket and missile industry.

By the end of the Cold War the Chinese aviation industry had entered into a new stage of development after more than thirty years of unremitting efforts, especially after the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, when policies of bringing order out of chaos, rectification, reform and opening to the world were adopted.

By the 21st Century the Chinese aviation industry had become an industrial system with a relatively complete range of categories and a more solid foundation. China is a large country with a vast territory. Its socialist modernization construction, centered around economic construction was vigorously developing. The State and the society had an urgent demand for civil aircraft. The development of civil aircraft has now been emphasized by the State and positive policy measures have been taken accordingly. It is expected that the Chinese aviation industry will in the near future produce one after another good civil aircraft to serve the country's socialist modernization construction and its international exchanges while military aircraft are being developed. The path of the Chinese aviation industry was not all smooth sailing. It was tortuous rather.

Page last modified: 01-08-2021 14:08:57 Zulu