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Warwick G, 28-Jun-1986. China: Rebuilding an Industry, Flight International

Warwick G, 28-Jun-1986. China: Rebuilding an Industry, Flight International

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Published by: Foro Militar General on Oct 04, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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China: rebuilding
ian, the ancient walled city, wasonce China's capital. Here theemperor who gave his name to thisvast country decreed that a 6,000-strongterracotta army be created to guard histomb for eternity.Every day 50,000 visitors file past thisstatue army as it emerges from the dust of22 centuries. Every year, thousands offoreign tourists fly into Xian to see thiseighth wonder of the world and theregion's other historical sites.Not on their tour agenda, althoughimpressive in its own right, is the vastaircraft factory at Yan Liang, 90kmoutside Xian. If they were to visit the XianAircraft Company (XAC), foreign touristswould discover how the demand for airtravel that their presence creates isrevitalising an industry which has a keyrole to play in China's economic development.Set up in 1958 to build large bomber andtransport aircraft under Soviet licence,the Xian factory is perhaps the largestof its kind in China—certainly thelargest visited by
—with its400,000m
of buildings housing
machines. But, typically of the factoriesvisited by
less than one-third ofthe Xian workforce is directly involved
From Xian to Shanghai, China'saircraft industry is gearing up tomeet the country's expecteddemand for airliners.
reports from China,with photographs by
in aircraft production.At first glance diving boards, washingmachines, aluminium-frame doors andwindows, satellite dishes, and, of allthings, fairground Ferris wheels may nothave much in common, but they are allproducts of the Xian aircraft factory.To compensate for the reduction inmilitary work which followed the CulturalRevolution, China's aircraft factoriesturned to the production of domesticgoods. While going some way towardsmeeting China's new consumerism, thismove has cushioned the industry in itstransition from wholly military topredominantly civil aircraft production,with an ultimate goal of a 60:40 civil-military balance.Between 1981 and 1985 China built 135civil aircraft, mainly at three factories;
Harbin in the north, and Xian andHanzhong in central China. "Hundreds"of civil aircraft are to be produced duringthe next five-year plan, 1986 to 1990, withShanghai emerging as a major manufacturing centre assembling McDonnellDouglas MD-82s under licence.
tour of China's civil aircraft industry tookin the Harbin, Xian, and Shanghaifactories.Known locally as "Aeroplane Town",Yan Liang is a long drive from Xianthrough a sea of wheatfields dotted withvillage "islands". China's new rural prosperity is evident in the rash of new brick-built houses springing up everywhere. YanLiang, a town of some 60,000, is madememorable by its beautiful tree-linedstreets. The aircraft factory employs some10,000, and is large even by Westernstandards, but is typically Chinese in itsorganisation."The company is equal to a smallsociety," says Yi Zhibin, XAC vice-president and chief engineer. "Besides thefactory there are the public services—nursery, primary, and middle schools, college, canteens, shops, and a hospital. Wehave to take care of an employee from hisbirth to his death, providing his education,his work, and his home," he adds.
Heading picture
The Xian AircraftCompany is installing Western
now in final
fitted to the
were developed
in China
Until the late 1970s Xian's principalproduct was the H-6 bomber, China'sversion of the Tupolev Tu-16. Productionof the H-6 continues, but at a low rate,with only two beautifully finished examples in final assembly at the time of
visit. "The H-6 will continue inproduction for some years yet," says Yi,although he confirms that consideration isbeing given to a replacement bomber,possibly supersonic, to be designed atXian.In addition to its consumer goods production, XAC is also involved in aircraftrepair and subcontract work for Westernaircraft companies. Repair work centreson the H-6, but includes Tridents andAn-24s of China's national airline, CAAC.XAC has just completed a contract tosupply 737-300 fins and cabin doors toBoeing, and is involved in subcontractwork on the Aerospatiale/AeritaliaATR42 and Canadair CL215.Xian's principal product is the 52-seatY-7 airliner, of which 24 have been built sofar and 14 supplied to CAAC. XAC startedwork on the Y-7 in 1968. "The aircraft wasdesigned with reference to the AntonovAn-24 and other aircraft types," says Yi."The result looks like an An-24, but hasdifferent engines and equipment, a
XAC's Yi Zhibin
slightly wider fuselage, and a larger wing,"he points out.Engine power has been increased to2,900 e.h.p., from 2,550 e.h.p. in the An-24,to improve hot and high performance."CAAC's An-24s cannot operate in someprovinces despite having a third engine [aturbojet] to boost take-off performance,"Yi notes.Although the Y-7 first flew in 1970, itdid not get its Chinese certificate ofairworthiness until 1980. "Because theaircraft was designed during the CulturalRevolution, the Y-7 had to be reworkedafter 1976 to improve its quality and sogain its certificate," Yi reveals. Five testaircraft were built, three for flight testing,plus static- and fatigue-test articles.The first Y-7 was delivered in 1983, andthe aircraft entered service with CAAC in1984, initially on freight and charterservices only. From April this year,however, CAAC's Y-7s will be used forscheduled passenger services, "as a resultof its favourable experience with theaircraft," says Yi.Y-7s delivered to CAAC during 1985had improved avionics, including Sperryweather radar and Litton Omega navigation. In September last year China signedan agreement with the Hong Kong AeroEngineering Company (Haeco) to updatethe Y-7 with Western avionics andinterior. One aircraft was flown to HongKong for retrofitting.The new Y-7-100 incorporates some 30navigation and communication equipmentchanges, with avionics from Collins,Sperry, Litton, Sundstrand, and Becker.The cockpit is completely updated, andthe flightcrew complement reduced fromfive to three. A new interior supplied by
Nordam raises passenger comfort levels toWestern standards. CAAC has ordered aninitial 40 Y-7-100s.XAC plans to complete four Y-7-100sthis year, using kits supplied by Haeco. Atthe time of
visit to Xian, twoaircraft were in final assembly. From thisyear all new Y-7s will be fitted with wing-lets developed in China. Already on thedemonstrator aircraft, these reduce dragby 4 per cent and improve fuelconsumption by 5 per cent. The wingletshave glassfibre trailing edges, evidenceof XAC's first forays into compositematerials.Yi identifies four areas for furtherimprovements to the Y-7—engine, structure, avionics, and development of a cargovariant.
Cutting consumption
Built at Shanghai, the WJ5A-1turboprop which powers the Y-7 is basedon the An-24's Ivchencko AI-24A engine.Efforts to reduce its fuel consumption areunder way with assistance from GE, Yireveals. The aim is to reduce specific fuelconsumption from its current 0-265 to0-25—a 17-5 per cent improvement. Theprogramme will take two years, says Yi,and will result in a Y-7-200 becomingavailable in 1988.The prohibitive cost of Westernturboprops means that Chinese Y-7s willcontinue to be powered by this engine,says Yi. While admitting that its technology is behind that available in theWest, he says the engine's reliability isimproving. Initially the time betweenoverhauls was just 300hr. Today it isl,500hr, with 4,000hr as the eventualtarget. Western engines are being considered for export versions of the Y-7,however, with the Pratt & WhitneyCanada PW125 and Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca RTM322 as the leadingcandidates. Using the higher-horsepowerRTM322 could allow the Y-7 to bestretched to more than 60 seats.Improvements to the Y-7 structure willreduce weight and enhance performance,says Yi. XAC plans to reduce airframeweight by 300-400kg by using composites,and to save another 250-300kg on thelanding gear. Using a foreign engine couldsave another 450kg. The weight reductionprogramme, now under way with Boeingassistance, will take about three years,says Yi, and will result in a Y-7-300becoming available around 1989.XAC has completed detail design of theY-7 cargo variant, Yi reveals, and theaircraft should be available in three years.The cargo Y-7 has a rear loading rampsimilar to that on the An-24 freighter, anexample of which was spotted in a hangarat Xian.With an initial order for 40 Y-7-100sunder its belt, XAC estimates that Chinacould require 100 such aircraft by 1990.Production capacity is more than 20aircraft a year. Demand for the aircraftfrom the newly formed regional airlinescould increase sales, says Yi, and the Y-7-100 demonstrator is currently on a salestour of eight Chinese provinces with thismarket in mind.With the intention of gaining an international airworthiness certificate for the
to help its export prospects, flighttesting of the -100 was conductedaccording to British civil airworthinessregulations, and translation of test data isnow under way, says Yi.XAC was also responsible for the designof China's Y-8 transport, which is basedon the Antonov An-12, although theaircraft itself is built at the ShaanxiTransport Aircraft Factory in Hanzhong."Y-8 cargo capability is equivalent to the
The Y-7'sWJ5A-1 turbopropis manufactured inShanghai.
Apressurised,100-seat passengerversion of theShaanxi TransportAircraft Factory(STAF) Y-8 isunder development

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