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October 10, 2009

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City designer of man-powered glider plans flight across lake

A LOCAL aircraft-designer is planning to fly his man-powered glider across Dianshan Lake in Qingpu District in December.

He will also enter the craft in a man-powered flight glider competition in Japan next summer.

Just a few days ago, Mao Yiqing completed the latest trial flight of his plane.

Mao, 40, has devoted most of the past two years to the project which he has named after the ancient Chinese philosopher Mozi, who explored the idea of man-powered flight about 2,000 years ago.

"I will manage a flight across Dianshan Lake, which will last for about 6 kilometers," Mao said.

Mozi will not fly high, just some 6 to 8 meters above the surface of the water as this means he does not have to seek permission from the aviation authorities.

Dianshan Lake is the largest lake in the city, covering 62 square kilometers.

Mao is to pilot the plane himself. If the flight is a success, his next aim is to fly across Taihu Lake, the largest lake in East China.

After that, Mao will take Mozi out of the country to show the whole world what it can do. He plans to take part in the Japan International Birdman Rally in Tokyo next July.

The annual event, which began in 1977, is a competition involving a flight across Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan.

Mozi's maiden flight took place early this year in Fengxian District, where it stayed in the air, 2 meters from the ground, for just 20 seconds.

Mao, however, saw the flight as significant because he believed his Mozi to be the first man-powered glider in China.

"I've read lots of material on man-powered planes, but found no record of Chinese ones," he said.

His plane, 7.4 meters long, 25 meters wide and 38 kilograms in weight, is powered by the pilot pedalling to turn the craft's propeller.

At present, Mao can only fly his glider in suburban areas, because downtown the sky is strictly managed by the aviation authorities. No private aircraft can fly there without permission.

Mao said that there were no plans to market the glider but some of the techniques used in its development would be vital for solar-powered aircraft.

He has established a company with eight engineers to develop such craft.

Mao began his research into model planes in 1999 and his first craft flew in 2003.

Four years later, one of his model aircraft won the first prize in a competition held in the United States.


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