Vietnam’s Wright Bros. hope to pilot homemade helicopter
November 6, 2006
Two Vietnamese peasants who designed and constructed a helicopter out of an old Russian motor and spare parts, are now anxiously awaiting a license for its maiden flight while time is running out.
Tran Quoc Hai and Le Van Danh from southern Tay Ninh province’s Tan Chau district last year made news when they created a helicopter at a cost of VND300 million (US$18,750), and managed to “drag it off the ground” before local authorities impounded the invention.
It is illegal to own an aircraft in Vietnam.
Last August, defense ministry delegates inspected the helicopter and decided to issue a permit for a trial flight, but they said the test must be done no later than 31 December 2006.
Over two months have passed but a license has yet to arrive.
Hai said it was now practically impossible for him to test his craft even if he laid hands on a license from the defense ministry.
He explained he would then have to obtain permits from the local government and science and technology department among other agencies. There will simply not be enough time.
Not for sale
The helicopter first weighed around a ton but later the two inventors trimmed it down to 680kg. The new version now measures 11 meters in length, 2.3 meters across and 3.5 meters high.
The engine uses 60 liters of gasoline in eight hours and can reach 150 kilometers per hour during flight, somewhat similar to a car.
The vehicle has 300-horse power engine and once flew 3m off the ground, Vietnam News Agency last year quoted Danh as saying.
“This aircraft is not for sale,” Hai once announced.
Recently, he refused to sell the aircraft to Australian experts who were ready to pay hundreds of thousands of US dollars for exhibition purposes.
The helicopter is a unique and alien product in industrialized Australia, Hai, who understands English well, quoted the Australians as saying.
Others from Singapore, Poland, the US, England and Cambodia have made visits.
The duo has received all kinds of offers; a US delegation asked to provide technical assistance, a Cambodian team invited them to make aircraft in their country, the duo recently told VietnamNet.
The Wright brothers
Hai recalled his childhood home being next to a US military base in Tay Ninh’s Go Dau district.
“Seeing helicopters up and down everyday caused me to think why only the US had such vehicles.
One adult told me then that Vietnamese technology was not good enough to make aircraft,” he recalled.
Though Hai later became a student at a sport university, his passion for aircraft did not abate. He studied mechanics and searched the Internet for aircraft information in his free time.
He opened a welding shop, which allowed him to meet a prominent client with equal passion for flying machines.
Danh, a policeman-turned-farmer often visited the workshop to weld farm implements, and the two became friends.
After Danh complained about the hardship of spraying pesticides manually and expressed a wish to have a small aircraft to do the job, the duo embarked on the invention journey.
Though not related by blood, the two curious minds definitely think alike.
Source: VietnamNet, Tuoi Tre – Translated by Hoang Bao