Heavy-duty Y-20 military airlifter weighs in at show

Heavy-duty Y-20 military airlifter weighs in at show
The PLA air force Bayi aerobatics team performs at the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, on Tuesday. More than 700 companies from China and abroad are attending the show.

China's first domestically developed strategic air lifter, the Y-20 Kunpeng, will soon be delivered to users, a senior aviation executive said, adding that the development of its engine is "faring well".

"We still need to conduct some ground and flight tests, so I am not able to tell you the exact time of delivery," Geng Ruguang, deputy general manager of the Aviation Industry Corp of China, the country's leading aircraft maker, said at the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, known as Airshow China, in Zhuhai, Guangdong province.

"However, I believe we can expect the (delivery) day within a very short time."

Applause from thousands of spectators met the thunderous roar of the Y-20's four turbofan engines as it flew by on Tuesday morning immediately after the opening of the show. It was the first time the aircraft had been seen in public.

The development of a new, powerful turbofan by China to replace imported ones currently installed on large transport aircraft is progressing smoothly, Geng said.

Earlier reports said the WS-20, a high-bypass-ratio engine under development to power the Y-20, was undergoing tests.

"Normally, if a prototype aircraft is encountering problems or proves unreliable during test flights, it is not likely to be sent to an air show, so the fact the Y-20 is here means its development is proceeding well," added Geng. He said engineers will be testing the aircraft's compatibility with a civilian airport during its stay in Zhuhai.

The Y-20, with a crew of three, had its maiden flight in January 2013, making China the third nation after the United States and Russia to develop a heavy lift transporter. This class of aircraft is used to carry large military payloads.

The giant plane has a maximum payload of 66 metric tons and a maximum takeoff weight of more than 200 tons, military sources said. The large payload means the aircraft can carry the PLA's heaviest tank, the 58-ton Type-99A2.

According to a technical evaluation in Aerospace Knowledge magazine, when carrying a total payload of 51 tons and fully fueled, the Y-20 has a range of 5,200 kilometers, meaning it can reach any point in Eurasia, Alaska, Australia and northern Africa.

With its maximum payload of 66 metric tons, the plane can fly 3,700 km, enabling it to make a nonstop flight from Harbin, Heilongjiang province, to Lhasa in the Tibet autonomous region, the report added.

The Y-20 is the first cargo aircraft in the world to use 3-D printing technology to speed up its development and lower manufacturing costs.

Tang Changhong, the plane's chief designer, previously told Xinhua News Agency that the aircraft has taken off carrying its maximum weight and has reached its highest operational altitude.

Test pilots say the air lifter has good aerodynamic traits, is stable during takeoff and landing and has outstanding carrying capacity, he added.

In addition to the heavy duty Y-20, the company is also working on a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft, the Y-30, a model of which is on show in the AVIC pavilion at the show.

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