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 development.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
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 manufacturing 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 prosperity 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.
FLIGHT INTERNATIONAL, 28 June 1986