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Posted by Eric Mu on Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 10:17 AM
Chutian Jinbao, May 11, 2009
The first solo flight of 45-year-old farmer-turned-aviator Shu Mansheng was not a smooth one: yesterday, the self-taught pilot took his self-designed airplane for its maiden flight. The plane sports two 100cc motorcycle engines and remotely resembles a WWI Red Baron. It crashed three seconds after takeoff, causing the pilot some nasty scratches on both of his legs.
According to the Wuhan-based newspaper Chutian Jinbao, when Shu emerged from underneath a pile of metal scrap, he was apparently in great excitement and babbling "How could I forget to adjust the throttle in the air? And the tail is way too big, which made the plane impossible to balance and made the nose go down. But I will fix it next time."
Next time? Aviation officer Jiang Shun from China Civil Aviation doesn't think so. Officer Jiang had come in the morning to stop Shu's insane attempt after a tip-off. However, with reluctance, he eventually gave permission after Shu promised that he would only "drive it around on the ground". After the crash, officer Jiang was among the first who arrived at the accident site, which was about fifty meters away from the runway. To the pilot who was still struggling to break himself free, Jiang issued a warning: "Next time you play this trick again, your plane will be confiscated."
Shu's 84-year-old mother and his wife, who were both present to help him, are his most avid supporters. "He doesn't drink, he doesn't gamble. This is his hobby and dream. We are only concerned about his safety."
The plane is the third model that Shu has built and so far the only one that actually shows the potential to fly. According to Shu, the first didn't have enough horsepower and the second was too heavy. "I learned all my craft from the Internet," Shu told the reporter.
Shu was able to finance his endeavor from compensation he received after his farm land was appropriated by the government. The crashed plane cost him over 100,000 yuan.
Note: Shanghai is currently home to an exhibition of farmer's inventions curated by Cai Guoqiang; see Daily Telegraph story by Malcom Moore below.
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