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February 27, 2014

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Lack of funds keeps pilot grounded

A SHANGHAI-based amateur aviator has been forced to temporarily shelve his flight plans while he saves up for essential modifications to his homemade rotorcraft.

Luo Jinshan, 28, who hails from Sichuan Province, told Shanghai Daily yesterday that the project was grounded after police interrupted a recent test flight.

On the evening of February 19, police were alerted to an unusual vehicle driving on a piece of open ground in Fengxian District, close to the Fenghai and Chuannanfeng highways. When officers arrived on the scene they found Luo taxiing his aircraft in preparation for a flight.

Luo was told he did not have permission to take to the air and that if he planned to fly in the future he would have to make sure his aircraft complied with the relevant aviation regulations.

Ultra-light planes, weighing less than 115 kilograms and with a fuel capacity of no more than 20 liters, can be flown in China without an airworthiness certificate or pilot’s license. However, flights are allowed only during the day, and aircraft must fly no higher than 100 meters and not faster than 100 kilometers per hour.

Luo told Shanghai Daily he has spent the past eight months and more than 40,000 yuan (US$6,530) developing his flying machine. He estimated that it weighs about 120kg, so to have it qualify as an ultra-light plane, modifications are necessary.

The problem is a lack of funds, he said.

“High-tech, aircraft-grade aluminum is light and durable, but it’s too expensive,” Luo said.

“I will try to remake the landing gear and some other parts out of regular aluminum, but even that will cost about 5,000 yuan,” he said.

Luo, who works as a mechanic in Hongmiao Town, Fengxian, said he earns about 4,800 yuan a month.

“So it’s going to take me some time to pay for the modifications,” he said.

Police told the would-be aviator that when he is ready to return to the skies he can use an open area near Xinghuo Town, about 40 minutes by car from Hongmiao, Luo said.

Ultra-light aircraft are forbidden from flying in densely populated districts and in open areas where crowds are likely to gather.

“Whenever I want to fly, I will have to report to the police and they will help me with any public security issues,” Luo said.

The flier said his aircraft features 7.2m-long rotor blades weighing 15kg. The framework is made of stainless steel, and the fuel tank is a converted plastic bucket.

Luo said he taught himself all the skills he needed to build the aircraft.

“I designed it and built every single part myself,” he said.

The aircraft made its maiden flight in January.

On that occasion, with no interruptions from the police, it flew for just over 100 meters at a height of about 4m, Luo said.


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