Air­ship to carry tourists, cargo

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Front Page - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Corp of China, a State-owned de­fense con­glom­er­ate, is de­vel­op­ing a large manned air­ship and plans to con­duct its maiden test flight in 2020, ac­cord­ing to its de­sign­ers.

“The air­craft will be tasked with car­ry­ing out aerial sight­see­ing or freight trans­porta­tion, and will also be suit­able for min­eral sur­veys, marine sur­veil­lance, emer­gency re­sponse and coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tions,” said Zhang Ming­wen, head of the Spe­cial Aerial Ve­hi­cle Re­search In­sti­tute, an AVIC sub­sidiary in Jing­men, Hubei prov­ince, that is de­sign­ing the blimp.

Pro­pelled by two en­gines, the air­ship will be ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing 840 kilo­grams and will be able to stay air­borne for 24 hours, Zhang said.

He added that it will have a flight range of 1,000 kilo­me­ters and will be able to fly at an al­ti­tude of more than 3 km. The blimp will come in two types, one pi­loted and one re­motely con­trolled, he said. De­tails on the blimp’s size were not dis­closed.

The in­sti­tute head said the air­ship pro­gram was ap­proved in June by the Min­istry of In­dus­try and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy and con­struc­tion for­mally be­gan in late Au­gust. It is ex­pected to ob­tain cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the civil avi­a­tion author­ity in 2021, he added, not­ing the in­sti­tute an­tic­i­pates more than 100 or­ders be­fore 2030.

Zhang’s in­sti­tute has de­signed a num­ber of manned and un­manned air­ships since the mid-1980s. It hopes that the new model’s de­vel­op­ment will help Chi­nese en­gi­neers nar­row the tech­no­log­i­cal gap be­tween Chi­nese air­ships and for­eign ones, and also help to boost the coun­try’s aero­space in­dus­try, said Zhou Lei, the air­ship’s pro­gram man­ager.

In ad­di­tion to AVIC, an­other State-owned de­fense con­trac­tor, China Aero­space Science and In­dus­try Corp, is also in­vest­ing in di­ri­gi­bles.

Qian Taiyang, a se­nior de­signer at Bei­jing NearS­pace Air­ship Tech­nol­ogy De­vel­op­ment Co — a sub­sidiary of CASIC — said his com­pany has de­signed and built sev­eral types of air­ships, in­clud­ing at least one manned model.

“The manned blimp has made sev­eral test flights and is await­ing civil avi­a­tion author­ity cer­ti­fi­ca­tion,” he said.

With a ca­pac­ity of one con­troller and eight pas­sen­gers, the air­ship can fly for 5 hours and reach an al­ti­tude of 1,000 me­ters above ground. Driven by two tur­bo­prop en­gines, it can move 70 to 80 kilo­me­ters per hour in good weather, Qian said.

Wang Ya’nan, ed­i­tor-inchief of Aero­space Knowl­edge mag­a­zine, ex­plained that com­pared with con­ven­tional air­craft like fixed-wing planes or he­li­copters, air­ships have much lower costs in terms of pro­cure­ment, op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance.

They can be used al­most ev­ery­where, as op­posed to fixed-wing planes that re­quire run­ways. There­fore, air­ships are a good choice for aerial tourism and cargo trans­porta­tion to re­mote, rugged ar­eas, he said.

PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A manned air­ship, be­ing de­vel­oped by Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Corp of China, plans to con­duct its maiden flight in 2020.

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