The secrets of “Made-in-Vietnam” planes

Published: 21/03/2010 05:00



An exhibition about the first locally-manufactured aircrafts opened at the Museum for Air Defense and the Air Force on February 2 but are they the first made-in-Vietnam planes? VietNamNet finds out.

The two farmers and their “helicopter”.

In 1999 rice grower Le Van Danh and a rubber farmer Tran Quoc Hai, who ran a shop repairing agricultural machines for ten years, joined hands to manufacture the first helicopter in Vietnam. This is a one of a kind helicopter because manufacturers did no calculations, have any sketches or set out parameters for the plane.

Details were collected from all sources. The engine was taken from a Zil 130 car. The driving-rod was the handlebar of a Honda motorbike. The three wheels included two from a car and one from a wheelbarrow. The major seat was a car chair and the sub-chair was a swivel seat.

The propeller was made of wood, with a steel frame. The body was produced by iron. The cabin was covered by plastic glass, with two windows. This helicopter is quite big: 9m long, 3m high, wing length 9.8m, nearly 1 tonne in weight.

Each time the two farmers tested the helicopter, they wore helmets and tied the plane with a steel chain.

As no on really expected it to fly the two farmers still counted it as a victory when the helicopter lifted itself 20-25m from the ground. In one trial it actually rose 40cms before the major pivot of the propeller was broken.

The Ministry of Defense in April 2004 set up a scientific council to evaluate this helicopter. Experts said that this vehicle lacked all necessary details. The materials failed to meet aviation standards and the installation was contrary to the basic principle of helicopters.

How could that helicopter fly when its engine could raise only half of the weight of itself?

The two farmers continued to finalize their “work” but in July 2007, the Ministry of Defense decided to ban it as unsafe.

The ups and downs of VAM

The VAM-1 plane.

There are other planes that the local medial called “the first planes of Vietnam”.

In April 2003, the Government Office assigned the Vietnam Mechanics Association (VAM) to manufacture two-seat propeller planes to serve agriculture, tourism, survey, etc. The association formed a steering group, led by Ph.D Nguyen Xuan Hung to implement a two-step project.

The first step: installing a planed temporarily called VAM-1 based on Canada’s Beaver RX550 model, with some changes that fit conditions in Vietnam.

Second step: Learning experience from VAM-1 to design VAM-2. This phase was carried out by the Institute for Research and Development of New Technology.

The VAM-1 was tested successfully in December 2005. The VAM-2 was manufactured by the Vietnam Mechanics Association and the Hoa Binh Aircraft Model Manufacturing Company. This airplane was checked by the Ministry of Science and Technology in March 2006 but until now, this plane is still in a warehouse and is not permitted to fly.

VietNamNet talked with Professor, Ph.D Nguyen Xuan Hung about this issue.

Prof. Nguyen Xuan Hung.

Why VAM-2 was manufactured a long time ago but it is still unused?

Four years ago, the Ministry of Science and Technology’s experts checked and approved for the safety of this plane. However, they asked us to submit dossiers to get the permission for trial flights. Since then we have sent dossiers twice but we don’t get the permission yet. It is difficult because the dossier must have all details about the time and the place where all details and parts of the plane were produced. This is a research project, not a production plan and it was implemented for several years so we couldn’t archive all documents.

If you get the permission, will the plane run well?

We are absolutely sure about it because VAM-1 is successfully and we don’t have any reason to suspect the success of VAM-2.

How much is the localization rate?

Up to 70 percent. We only bought the engine and imported materials to manufacture some components. It is normal to import some parts of planes. For example, 5-7 countries manufacture an Airbus. Though they can manufacture the entire aircraft, they still buy some components from a country of higher expertise.

Do we have to deal with technical matters to produce VAM-2 as a commercial product?

I think there is no technical problem. It also requires similar conditions for production like any product that is successfully research.

Is there any else hindrance?

It is not technical. I still remember late Prof. Academician Nguyen Van Dao said: “In Vietnam, the most difficult thing to make a super-light plane is not technology, but administrative procedures”.

But there is a precedence for using private aircraft in Vietnam, the case of Doan Nguyen Duc, Chairman of the Hoang Anh Gia Lai group.

I also hope that everything will be legalized in private ownership of and the right to use planes, but first of all, the right to manufacture aircrafts.

Could Vietnam produce private aircrafts?

I think it is feasible for developing the industry of private plane manufacturing in Vietnam in the future.

If I have money, should I buy a VAM-2?

Yes, you should. Because it is very cheap. We estimated that if we produce that model, it will be priced from $15,000 to 20,000, equivalent to one third of a similar plane manufactured in the US. It has two seats, can carry up to 500kg and fly around 400km, at a speed of 150km per hours. It uses normal gas – A91, which is sold at all filling stations in Vietnam. It is also very simple to repair it. It can take off or land on a plane of around 1 hectare of a road of 200m long, 10m wide.

What can I do with it?

Many things. For traveling, taking photo, environment observation, first-aid, spraying pesticide, etc.

What is your future plan?

I’m 73 but I still love planes very much. I only wish to manufacture pilotless aircrafts, which I think it is within reach. Sadly, other members in my team have retired. If we have to wait like this, we can do a few works in our life.

Tuan Ha

Provide by Vietnam Travel

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