M-11FR New China's First Aeroengine
On October 25, 1954, Chairman Mao Zedong of the Central People's Government issued a praise and encouragement letter to the Zhuzhou Aeroengine Factory to congratulate the successful licence production of new China's first batch of M-11 FR aeroengines in that factory. It pointed out: "This is a good beginning for both the establishment of our country's aircraft industry and the strengthening of our national defence." The M-11FR was produced according to technical documents provided by the Soviet Union. It was a 5 cylinder, radial, air-cooled piston engine with a take-off rating of 118 kW (160 hp) and a weight of 180 kg and fitted to the Yak-18 primary trainer. The M-11FR was the first aeroengine put into production by new China.
In Old China the industrial basis was particularly poor and it was under the guideline of " first overhaul and then manufacture" that the Zhuzhou Aeroengine Factory, which had previously been a shell manufacturer, actively set out to create the necessary conditions for manufacture of aeroengines.
When the factory was established in 1951, there were approximately 1,000 employees, none of whom had experience in the aeroengine industry. The factory had less than 100 sets of equipment, and those held were particularly old and of poor quality. The Government gave active support in manpower, materials and finance and the Soviet Union provided technical assistance. With a high conscientiousness of glory and duty for the construction of their Motherland' s aircraft industry, the cadres, technicians and workers studied, overcame hardships and difficulties, and in that same year achieved the overhaul of 54 M-11FR engines. By the end of 1952 the factory had mastered the basic techniques of engine overhaul.
In order to solve the problems associated with the shortage of the imported spare parts necessary. for overhaul, the factory started to make spare parts - both basic and complex - in 1952. In 1953, they produced piston rings, gear type oil pumps, casing rear covers and cylinders etc. This independent production of spare parts not only met the engine overhaul requirements of the factory, but also gave experience in manufacturing technologies. The production of cylinders with complex geometry and high quality requirements was a relatively all - round practice for the factory from the production preparation and blank casting, to the machining and assembly. The chlorinated refinement of the aluminium alloy and the casting of cylinder heads with cooling fins were the new manufacturing technologies at that time in China.
The assembly of the cylinder head and, barrel with Aeroengine Factory interference fit, the boring of hyperbolas into the inner face of the cylinder barrel and the multicutter cutting of the cooling fins were all the technical challenges. Through the joint efforts of leaders, engineers and workers, these critical technical problems were solved one by one. Rong Ke, a casting expert, joined the team to tackle the key problem, and Zhou Yousheng, an engineer, played an important role.
To April 1954, the factory overhauled 575 M-11FR engines, and manufactured 322 kinds of parts and components, which accounted for 55% of the total parts and components of the engine. The employees were doubled and the metal cutting equipment and floor area increased by 3-5 times. Through the overhaul of the M-11FR engine and the manufacture of its spare parts the understanding to the structure and performance of the engine was deepened, the experiences in the parts and components manufacture and the engine assembly and test accumulated, and the production management improved. All these improvements laid down a good foundation for the licence production of complete engines.
In order to strengthen the leadership of the factory and speed up the licence production of the engine, Niu Yingguan, the Vice-Governor of Jiangxi Province, was assigned to be the director and Party secretary of the ZEF in January 1954.
In March, the Aviation Industry Bureau (AIB) issued a formal task for the trial production of M-11FR, and moved up the completed time from the National Day (October 1) 1955 to September 1954. Soon after, the Deputy Director of the AIB, You Jiang led a working team to the factory to provide assistance on the spot. To guarantee the licence production of the new engine on schedule, the factory took several measures: it formed a New Engine Licence Production Commanding System headed by chief engineer Yang Naichang; set up a production technical management responsibility system by the chief manufacturing process engineer, chief metallurgical engineer, chief production supporting engineer and chief production controller; strengthened the product quality inspection system; promoted and appointed engineering university graduates to be the heads of technical departments and some workshops; in the meantime, created a well-conceived plan for technical measures, in order for the whole factory to concentrate on the task, define the responsibility, coordinate the activities and achieve high efficiency and good quality.
To deal with the problem associated with the need of a large amount of toolings for the production and the insufficient manufacturing capabilities, the factory set up a new tool room to increase the capability, and then appropriately reduced the number of toolings, and concentrated its efforts on the 1,320 most necessary toolings and equipments for the production. Thus in less than 3 months, all tasks were successfully finished. During this period, the parts production started while teams were organized to tackle the key technical problems. The first 3 M-11FR engines were finally assembled in July 1954 and the state acceptance tests were smoothly completed in August. On September 18 the Revolutionary Military Committee of the Central People' s Government issued the approval to turn this engine into series production.
Thus, the aeroengine industry completed the transition from repair to manufacture in only 3 years after its start. That finished the long history of inability to make aeroengines in China.
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