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China's DIY Aviators Take Flight

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the Icarus-lee dept.

Technology 113

ScuttleMonkey writes "China’s emerging aviator class is spreading its wings with a plethora of approaches, from the ramshackle to the sophisticated to the potentially revolutionary. They’re using everything imaginable, from old motorcycle engines to electric motors to even their own legs, like Mao Yiqing and his human-powered airplane. You could easily plot these adventurous innovators on a graph, with the X axis showing their skill and the Y axis their financial means."

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113 comments

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FP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30581166)

So as X goes to infinity, Y goes to zero?

Re:FP! (1)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581934)

Exactly. The poster tells us what the x- and y- axes are, but not what the graph looks like. Is it linear? What are the scales?

I got the point, but come on, this is /. You should know better than to make half a math reference.

Re:FP! (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | more than 4 years ago | (#30587086)

It's more of a scatterplot, used so that they can talk about the skills and financial means of different pilots by referring to their theoretical "graph".

Got nuthin (3, Funny)

paiute (550198) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581172)

The problem with Chinese experimental homebuilt aircraft is, a half hour after you test fly it, you....

Re:Got nuthin (1)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581412)

You what? A half hour after you test fly it, you WHAT?!

Re:Got nuthin (1)

gregarican (694358) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581612)

Feel like having another [youtube.com] ...

Re:Got nuthin (1)

Macrat (638047) | more than 4 years ago | (#30586080)

Just like having Chinese women.

Re:Got nuthin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30581486)

Clash?

Re:Got nuthin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30581794)

you lacist!

Re:Got nuthin (1)

Randseed (132501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30584062)

The problem with Chinese experimental homebuilt aircraft is, a half hour after you test fly it, you....

...get shot down by the Chinese airforce and your family is billed for the cost of the missile.

News? (2)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581224)

How is this news? People make homebrew/budget planes and what-not all the time. Remember those idiots with their weather balloon? Does X-Prize mean anything to you?

Coming up next - man grows his OWN food!!1!

Re:News? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30581260)

jealous, are we?

Re:News? (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581528)

Never has there been a projection of a man's approach to life so obvious as when he accuses another of making a statement out of jealousy.

I mean, are you so bitter and competitive that you see everything in terms of people doing better or worse than you? Even so, are you capable of thinking that people other than you might analyse things without reference to themselves?

If people dislike Bill Gates, it's jealousy. If people dislike Steve jobs, it is jealousy. If people just don't like GW Bush, it's jealousy. People dislike Obama, it's jealousy. careless drivers? You're jealous of their fast cars. Hate dictators? You are jealous of their military and sociopolitical skills. Question the ethics of African diamond mine owners? You are jealous of their marketing and productivity. Question meritocracy when the lazy Genius in the class did no work but excelled? You have no valid point, you're just jealous. Doubt the American claim of classlessness after serving the heirs of billion-dollar fortunes at a country club? Buddy, you are just jealous. hate socialised European healthcare? no you don't, you're just jealous of the French! hate American Private healthcare? Sounds like you're just jealous of Americans!

The "jealousy" argument is as specious as the "only terrorists/paedophiles/people who hate America would say that" argument.

Re:News? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30581816)

Well thought and well spoken... I'm a bit jealous of your cognitive and linguistic skills.

Re:News? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30582158)

I still think he's just jealous and so are you.

Re:News? (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 4 years ago | (#30582320)

I see this more as 'Some people in China living comfortably enough to focus on things that may or may not pay off.' It might just be for fun but it's flexing the brain. Intellectual curiosity, you know?

Gotta say it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30581254)

With two measurable qualities, couldn't you graph anything on? # of cabbages sold per day, number of kills I get playing Team Fortress 2 per day. Other than what day it is, they're not related. Unless I just don't know that consuming a cabbage gives me better skills (which is to say, skills greater than 0). Is whoever wrote the summary trying to suggest they're two related qualities? That's a rheatorical question, as I'm pretty sure they are - but I wish I was more suprised that someone made such an inane and baseless statement in a slashdot summary. I mean, you're not writing the article yourself (except in some cases), surely doing a summary that isn't ridiculous isn't too much of a stretch.

Re:Gotta say it... (4, Funny)

thomasdz (178114) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581298)

With two measurable qualities, couldn't you graph anything on? # of cabbages sold per day, number of kills I get playing Team Fortress 2 per day. Other than what day it is, they're not related.

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. You can graph any two variables you say? Sounds like witchcraft to me. burn the demon!

Re:Gotta say it... (2, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581388)

You can't prove that all variables can be graphed unless you graph them all. Since that would take an infinite amount of time, you can never prove it. However, we could make a graph with the number of variables successfully graphed on the X axis, and the amount of time taken on the Y axis. That might be interesting, like this related obligatory graph [zooomr.com] .

Re:Gotta say it... (1)

thomasdz (178114) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581456)

Had I not already replied to this Slashstory, I would have modded you up... well done

Re:Gotta say it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30582854)

You can't prove that all variables can be graphed unless you graph them all.

I don't think that statement is a given. I don't have to actually manually add all the numbers 1/n in the series n=[1..infinity] to know that it adds up to 2.

I'm not saying you're wrong, I'd just like to see how you came to that conclusion.

Also, I disagree with the graph you linked. It implies that looking at that graph isn't a complete waste of time.

Re:Gotta say it... (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 4 years ago | (#30584354)

Let all variables be arranged in set V y=V(0) - base case
y=V(n+1) - Inductive step

Re:Gotta say it... (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#30586188)

Wow man, I'm sure you have a future career as a publicist. I think you've just discovered quantum bullshitting.

Re:Gotta say it... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30588078)

But if you burn him, who will send you the newsletter? ^^

Re:Gotta say it... (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581354)

That's a rheatorical question

A question about the daughter of Uranus and Gaia [wikipedia.org] to which you don't expect an answer? Or just about flightless birds?

Re:Gotta say it... (1)

lysdexia (897) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581582)

Tell us moa `bout it.

Re:Gotta say it... (4, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581392)

But the technical sophistication of the effort and the wealth of the experimenter certainly *are* related.

The idea of a amateur homebrew helicopter is truly frightening, but *anybody* can dream, especially if he doesn't realize how incompetent he really is.

The minimum successful example is the guy with the autogyro. For that you need the kind of practical skills a farmer who maintained his own equipment would have. The most sophisticated component he'd need is the rotor, which *could* be manufactured from glued wood.

The next step up is the human powered guy. He needs a long carbon fiber boom as the main longitudinal structural component, and probably another one to carry the lift generated along the wings to the main boom. That's pretty expensive. Once he has that, then the drivetrain is bicycle technology.

The rest of the wings and pilot's nacelle are fairly sophisticated, but within the capability of a weekend tinkerer to construct. The key is the sophisticated materials you can buy. You make a basketwork out of lightweight wood and Kevlar tape, then heat shrink polyester sheeting on it to create a skin. Weekend boatmakers have been constructing ultralight boats this way for *years*. You can make a 17 foot canoe that weights under ten pounds this way, or a full sized rowboat that weights maybe fifteen pounds.

The guy who is working on a certifiable electric aircraft needs to have the most money. He needs a real machinist and sophisticated fabrication techniques. Batteries aren't really good enough for practical aviation yet, so for his demo he needs the best batteries and motor money can buy.

Each of these guys is designing the most practical aircraft possible within his financial means. Give the homebrew helicopter guy a million dollars, and he'll *probably* end up killing himself, but it would no doubt be in a more impressive aircraft.

Re:Gotta say it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30581590)

The minimum successful example is the guy with the autogyro. For that you need the kind of practical skills a farmer who maintained his own equipment would have. The most sophisticated component he'd need is the rotor, which *could* be manufactured from glued wood.

The next step up is the human powered guy. He needs a long carbon fiber boom as the main longitudinal structural component, and probably another one to carry the lift generated along the wings to the main boom. That's pretty expensive. Once he has that, then the drivetrain is bicycle technology.

Eh...did you look at the videos? The autogyro was way more successful than the human-powered guy. The more expensive aircraft isn't a step up, other than the fact that it is human powered which has additional difficulties.

Re:Gotta say it... (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#30588506)

I did, and I'm not surprised that the autogyro was successful. If I had to build an aircraft that my life depended on with more or less the skills I have now, it'd probably be an autogyro.

There's an apples-and-oranges element to the comparisons of course; each of these guys has a different dream he's pursuing. But my point is that each of these guys is also building the most sophisticated aircraft he can. Money is a limiting factor. The farmer needs ingenuity to make something like the autogyro. The wealthy businessman does not.

The farmer could probably build his autogyro for something like 20,000 Yuan (under 3 grand US $). If he had a billion Yuan to play with, maybe he'd still build an autogyro. Or maybe he'd build a suborbital spacecraft. But if 20K is all he has, an autogyro it is. An electric airplane is out of the question.

Now if the guy who is building the electric airplane built an autogyro instead, we wouldn't be as impressed as when the farmer does it, because we'd *assume* he used his money to overcome any problems he hit. Can't get a rotor that works? Buy one. Not enough lift? Buy a more powerful motor and build the frame out of titanium. What we really admire is ingenuity yoked with ambition.

Re:Gotta say it... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581848)

Actually I suggest you pick up a copy of Homebuilt Aircraft at your local book store, got to EAA.org, and then make a trip to Sun n Fun or or Oshkosh, Hundreds, maybe thousands of people have built their own helicopters around the world. Tens of thousands of homebuilt aircraft are flying in the US. Homebuilts in the US run the range from ultralights to jets. What is amazing is not that this is being done but that the Chinese government is allowing it.
BTW Burt Rutan the man that built SpaceShip One realy built his reputation selling plans for Homebuilt aricraft. His VariEze and LongEZ are to this day considered classics.

Re:Gotta say it... (1)

chaim79 (898507) | more than 4 years ago | (#30582908)

Exactly, Burt Rutan was the brains behind Voyager, the first non-stop, no-refueling, round the world flight. Voyager was built over a 5 year period by Volunteers, using fiberglass, carbon-fiber, and Kevlar, financed by donations.

And as for heading to Oshkosh or Sun N Fun to see all the crazy fliers, check out the Ultralight section at Oshkosh, since there's very little regulation of Ultralights, and there are ballistic parachutes available for the entire aircraft, there is a lot more experimentation going on. One guy we call 'the farmer' comes up every year, usually with a different aircraft each time.

Re:Gotta say it... (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#30588278)

Hundreds, maybe thousands of people have built their own helicopters around the world.

I don't doubt that for a moment. That doesn't mean the idea isn't *scary*. If an engineer from Sikorsky invites me for a ride in the latest model, I'll accept his assertion that it's perfectly safe. If Joe Experimenter invites me for a ride in his home built and designed helicopter, assuring me it's just as safe, I don't doubt that it's *physically possible* for that to be true, but I'd pass, thank you.

I'd also have no problems getting into an aircraft designed and built under Burt Rutan's supervision, or designed by Rutan and assembled without engineering improvisation by a competent mechanic. But Rutan is not an amateur. He has a degree in aeronautical engineering and worked in the field for years before selling his designs to other people. That's a hell of a lot different from some guy with no experience who decides he's going to design a helicopter from first principles.

Re:Gotta say it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30581956)

Yes and no.

Check with EAA and you can learn all the skills for working with multiple types of aircraft fabrication elements (wood, cloth, aluminum, carbon fiber, fiberglass, etc).

Lots of people have built both helicopters and gyrocopters. The skill set to BUILD an aircraft isn't that advanced. (Designing one on the other hand...)

I am impressed with the human powered aircraft. Designing a working version of that takes skill.

The electric airplane company is a whole different matter. That's going to be a whole new industry as people start developing electric aircraft primarily as trainers. (Definitely not a homebuilder building one for his/her own enjoyment)

Re:Gotta say it... (3, Informative)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 4 years ago | (#30584372)

The idea of a amateur homebrew helicopter is truly frightening...

There are several flying examples in the U.S. of amateur-built helicopters. Granted, most of them are built from professionally manufactured kits (i.e., the manufacturer builds a prefab kit, and the "builder" assembles the parts), some of which are relatively sophisticated. Google Rotorway and Mini-500 (I think the Mini-500 is defunct now, but there were several built back in the '90s).

...but *anybody* can dream, especially if he doesn't realize how incompetent he really is.

I would argue that often times, those who don't realize how incompetent they really are are, in fact, the ones who make the biggest advancements. They don't know it's impossible before they try, therefore they are the ones who go ahead and do it anyway. "The Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic was built by professionals." ;)

The next step up is the human powered guy. He needs a long carbon fiber boom as the main longitudinal structural component, and probably another one to carry the lift generated along the wings to the main boom. That's pretty expensive. Once he has that, then the drivetrain is bicycle technology.

Human powered flight is about as difficult as aviation gets, at least for right now. The problem is that it takes more energy than most people realize to lift a human body; we simply don't have the strength or endurance to generate that much power for very long. I believe the current record is 199km [gizmag.com] -- not too shabby, and much better than I thought before I looked it up just now. FWIW, building the carbon fiber boom isn't difficult (although the carbon fiber is relatively expensive -- but less so than most power plants for experimental aviation). I did the calculations for a carbon fiber wing spar about a decade ago, and estimated a ~1500 pound airplane stressed for a max G-loading of +6/-4 (plus reserve) would cost around $1000 - $2000. It isn't cheap, but it's certainly within the realm of possibility for someone of reasonable means. There was also a guy in Arizona about ten years ago who built a foot-launched sailplane called the Carbon Dragon, that would probably be worth studying if you were interested in trying to build a DIY human powered airplane. He sold plans for the airplane, but I believe he died a few years ago, so they might be a little hard to find now.

The rest of the wings and pilot's nacelle are fairly sophisticated, but within the capability of a weekend tinkerer to construct. The key is the sophisticated materials you can buy. You make a basketwork out of lightweight wood and Kevlar tape, then heat shrink polyester sheeting on it to create a skin.

That's not a bad way to do it. I remember reading magazines dating from the late '60s (I read them in the '90s, though) about people who had build entire airplanes with this method. My experimental airplane [google.com] uses a slightly different method, that also might work. The wing spar is an aluminum tube with foam ribs glued to it. The leading edge is 2024T3 aluminum wrapped over the ribs to make a stiff skin over the first 1/4 of the wing, then the entire wing is covered a material made by 3M for building greenhouses called Tedlar (as the story goes, 3M freaked and pulled Tedlar from the market after hearing people were building airplanes out of it; I haven't verified the story). It looks like a full-scale model airplane wing covered in clear Monokote ;) For human powered flight, I would probably replace the aluminum spar with carbon fiber, like you mentioned earlier, but the principle is the same.

The guy who is working on a certifiable electric aircraft needs to have the most money. He needs a real machinist and sophisticated fabrication techniques. Batteries aren't really good enough for practical aviation yet, so for his demo he needs the best batteries and motor money can buy.

Agreed, with reservations. There are a multitude of problems with electric flight, but it's starting to happen. Flying magazine (I think; might have been AOPA Pilot, but I don't think so) recently ran an article on a couple of new airplanes that are electric powered. The (arguably) most promising airplane was -- you guessed it -- from China, called "Yuneec". Google electric airplane Oshkosh [google.com] and you will get a number of hits on the topic. Yuneec also sells engine and battery kits to others, so you could try to retrofit the electric power plant to another airframe, if you wanted. IIRC, the cost wasn't that unreasonable and the power plant was rated at approximately 50 H.P., which would be perfect for a lot of the experimental Light Sport Airplanes like mine (53 H.P. Rotax 503). This would be especially good for someone who wanted to build an electric motorglider. Electric airplanes are coming, and will only get better as the technology improves.

Re:Gotta say it... (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581394)

I mean, you're not writing the article yourself (except in some cases), surely doing a summary that isn't ridiculous isn't too much of a stretch.

TFS is a direct quote from TFA. Maybe not the best, but TFA and the videos are actually pretty cool. With our own government becoming more and more oppressive we could probably learn a lot from the Chinese.

Re:Gotta say it... (0, Redundant)

stjobe (78285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581598)

With our own government becoming more and more oppressive we could probably learn a lot from the Chinese.

Hmm... Just what are you trying to say here? :)

And in the Z axis (4, Funny)

JamesP (688957) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581302)

Time airborn I assume...

Re:And in the Z axis (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581408)

That's not a bad way of looking at it. So we imagine that there's a smooth surface in three dimensions; each of these guys dreams of escaping that surface.

Re:And in the Z axis (1)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581766)

No, the depth of the impact crater

Re:And in the Z axis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30581804)

i'd think most of them were zero times born in air :)

Re:And in the Z axis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30582060)

And it would still be a 2D graph

What the pilots are thinking during landing (0)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581376)

I've got to concentrate ... concentrate ... concentrate ...
I've got to concentrate ... concentrate ... concentrate ...
Hello ... hello ... hello ...
echo ... echo ... echo ...
Pinch hitting for Pedro Borbon, Manny Mota ... Mota .. Mota ...

Re:What the pilots are thinking during landing (1)

gregarican (694358) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581466)

You ever see a grown man naked?

Re:What the pilots are thinking during landing (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 4 years ago | (#30584006)

Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can't be serious.
Rumack: I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.

Re:What the pilots are thinking during landing (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#30586228)

Well, I'm glad you two figured out what I was doing, even if one of the mods didn't.

Re:What the pilots are thinking during landing (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 4 years ago | (#30587704)

I thought it was quite obvious. Mods need a sense of humour implant.
Controller: I know but this guy has no flying experience at all. He's a menace to himself and everything else in the air... yes, birds too.

Note: Humour spelled correctly in houour of the Great Leslie Nielsen.

Escaping! (4, Funny)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581440)

Some people will do just about ANYTHING to escape a communist dictatorship.

Re:Escaping! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30581908)

In that case, prepare for Palin while you still can!

Re:Escaping! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30581944)

Some people will do just about ANYTHING to escape a communist dictatorship.

Yeah, but getting out of the US is harder than you think. :(

Re:Escaping! (2, Funny)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581964)

Some people will do just about ANYTHING to escape a communist dictatorship.

I don't know... that one guy did create a people [wikipedia.org] powered plane.

Re:Escaping! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30582448)

Actually, I'm from Hungary and it's a story in my family that one of my relatives escaped to Austria using a powered hang glider during communism...not sure how true the story is, i heard it when I was a younger.

Re:Escaping! (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30583568)

China isn't the only place with this kind of thing going on. In the UK, for example, you don't need a certificate of airworthiness for very light aircraft and you can fly them with just a microlight license (which is comparatively cheap to get - you can do it in 25 hours).

Escape communist dictatorship? HAH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30585408)

When I was young, we escaped to socialist dictatorships. [wikipedia.org] Then we spent a while in USSR prison as it was closest thing to rest we could ever get! And we never complained!

But tell that to youngsters today and they won't believe you.

What the west has missed (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30581460)

When W was busy claiming that the west would move to an economy of IP, rather than actual manufacturing, he missed that the 2 work hand in hand. Basically, you need to be able to see how things are done to do the derivative work. Basically, America MUST bring back manufacturing to be able to grow again. America is becoming more and more like Russia; a has-been. Both because they have moved to depending on few incomes.

In the mean time, good luck to these ppl. Hopefully, one day, they will be free to actually enjoy their labor.

Re:What the west has missed (3, Insightful)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581708)

Mod parent up! I've resisted the idea, but between this and China overtaking the U.S. as the world's biggest market for automobiles [google.com] , I'm about convinced that America is not only in decline but is well down the slope. OTOH, it's still way better than Russia (I've been there) which is only barely surviving thanks to its vast resources being able to overcome frightening inefficiencies.

Re:What the west has missed (2, Insightful)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 4 years ago | (#30582324)

Dude. Nobody is missing anything. W and the other people who run businesses -- on all ends of the political spectrum -- know very well that outsourcing manufacturing is a bad idea for the country as a whole, but it's a good idea for *them* personally because it increases their profit margin. So they do it. Everyone ELSE knows very well that outsourcing manufacturing is a bad idea for the country as a whole and for them personally, but they can't do anything about it because they're not running companies, and if they did, they'd be outcompeted by the companies that outsource manufacturing.

I agree with your conclusion, that we're becoming a has-been, but I think your premises are entirely too charitable.

Re:What the west has missed (1)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 4 years ago | (#30582420)

The people outsourcing the companies are doing it because government meddling and taxes have made it too expensive to run any kind of competitive business here. And we're just about to get another dose of that.

Re:What the west has missed (1)

kaiser423 (828989) | more than 4 years ago | (#30582712)

Really? Are you sure? If we strip away all regulations, the cost of business here would still be much higher than in China, because their standard of living is just lower. Period. There's nothing that we can do about them having billions of dirt-poor people that they can train to manufacture items, and pay next to nothing. They have a virtual slave class, and an American worker isn't going to be cost-competitive with that until all 1 billion people are pulled out of the poverty well.

Re:What the west has missed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30584734)

Strip away all the regulations and most Americans would be as poor as most Chinese within two generations.

Re:What the west has missed (1)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 4 years ago | (#30587488)

It's a sliding scale of course. But the US doesn't have to match Chinese wages, just come close enough that it doesn't make financial sense to take things abroad. Tax the companies, tax the raw materials, tax the profits, tax the income, force them to buy goods and services through regulation then tax that too, tax the workers, tax their healthcare, tax their food, tax their transport, tax where they live, tax their taxes... The surprising thing is that anyone can afford to keep *any* business in the US.

Re:What the west has missed (1)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 4 years ago | (#30587546)

Minor update to remove some ambiguity)

It's a sliding scale of course. But the US doesn't have to match Chinese wages, just come close enough that it doesn't make financial sense to take things abroad. Whe way it works in the US now is: Tax the companies, tax the raw materials, tax the profits, tax the income, force them to buy goods and services through regulation then tax that too, tax the workers, tax their healthcare, tax their food, tax their transport, tax where they live, tax their taxes... The surprising thing is that anyone can afford to keep *any* business in the US.

Re:What the west has missed (1)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 4 years ago | (#30587616)

But to add some typos apparently. Oops.

Re:What the west has missed (1)

elkto (558121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30584094)

George W. was clearly wrong in what he said at that time.
I agree with your statement about manufacturing, but Clinton's trade agreements destroyed any capability of the US to gain it back.

The article takes me back to the mindset here in the US in the late 60's early 70's. Fun times!

Cessna manufacturing in China (3, Interesting)

yabos (719499) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581668)

Cessna is now outsourcing manufacturing of the new SkyCatcher 162 to China. I wonder how long until a lot of the design is copied by the Chinese into the homebuilt market. We all know how they rapidly produce knockoff products of just about everything. Cessna is reportedly saving about $77,000 USD by manufacturing in China yet the SkyCatcher still costs >$100,000 USD to buy.

Re:Cessna manufacturing in China (2, Interesting)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581938)

Cessna is reportedly saving about $77,000 USD by manufacturing in China yet the SkyCatcher still costs >$100,000 USD to buy.

Half of every dollar spent on aviation in the US goes to cover liability. Also, Cessna, by far, has the largest markup of any of the light piston US manufacturers. From what I've read, the plane is targeting $111,000. If liability laws were brought into sane reason, that same aircraft could likely be had for something like $50,000. Yet one more reason to drown all the attorneys tomorrow. And if the FAA were revamped such that it more readily allowed free market competition, that price could likely be in the $30k range while at the same time making aviation safer for everyone; including commercial flights.

If anyone has any doubt about the evils of attorneys, don't ever forget we all pay a premium price for all things aviation related and in exchange for doing so, we suffer a higher death and injury rate as a direct result. The sad thing is, this is the literal truth. If you doubt me, go learn the difference between the avionics allowed in experimentals versus certified aircraft and you'll understand both how much cheaper and better the experimental equipment generally is in almost every aspect.

Re:Cessna manufacturing in China (2)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#30582322)

we suffer a higher death and injury rate as a direct result.

I wanted to clarify something here. That was meant to be taken in relative terms rather than an absolute. In absolute terms the death and injury rate is actually pretty low; with the most dangerous segment being on par with motorcycles. In relative terms to what it could be, its far higher than what is otherwise technically obtainable.

Citation Needed (1)

kramer (19951) | more than 4 years ago | (#30582476)

You say that as if you need no facts to back it up. Looking around, the best estimates I could find were 3 to 5 percent of the cost of a plane are litigation and litigation-prevention costs. There's also a fairly significant amount for insurance, some of which goes to paying for litigation, but all totaled it still seems to be less than either of the two largest costs, parts and labor.

So, please stop pulling numbers out of your ass.

Re:Citation Needed (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 4 years ago | (#30584578)

The problem is that those numbers are devilishly difficult to calculate. It's easy enough to calculate the *direct* costs of litigation, but that is only telling part of the story. How many companies have pulled out of the aviation/avionics market because they don't want to take on the liability of building airplane parts? I can tell you story after story of parts manufacturers and service shops who refuse to produce or work on airplane parts because they are afraid of the potential liability. Econ 101 says that competition and prices are indirectly related -- less competition means higher prices. Do your 3-5% estimates reflect that lack of competition?

Re:Citation Needed (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#30584584)

Its a well documented fact that liability in aviation consumes .50 on every aviation dollar.

Stop putting your head up your ass.

Re:Cessna manufacturing in China (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30582502)

It is really a shame what planes cost. As a private pilot stuck renting for the foreseeable future, I've tried to figure out all different ways to afford a plane and just haven't been able to work it into the budget. Even decent used planes go for at least $15k - usually $25k or more.

The new SLSA rules (well, they've been around long enough now that it's hard to call them "new" anymore) have allowed for some interesting new manufacturers to spring up, but the prices are still pretty high. Best price I've been able to find on a new production aircraft is the Savage Zlin (http://www.zlinaero.com/eng/index.php). More or less a clone of the old Piper Cubs with some updates (electrical system, radios, front seat solo, etc). Actually very interesting little planes, but least I checked their base prices was still around $50k, which with just basic options will easily break $60k.

Oh well. I think my best option at the moment may just be resigning myself to driving my car until it literally falls apart once it's paid for and rebudgeting my car payment towards a used plane payment at that point (still got 3 years left).

Re:Cessna manufacturing in China (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30583618)

It depends a lot on what you class as a plane. Fixed-wing three-axis microlights can be quite cheap and get very good fuel economy (and some have better specifications than the planes I learned to fly in, although they tend to be in the $40K region new). You might consider renting out a plane to other people - at least you can probably cover hangar charges and maintenance by letting other people fly it when you're not, and maybe pay off some of the capital too.

Re:Cessna manufacturing in China (1)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30582716)

"And if the FAA were revamped such that it more readily allowed free market competition, that price could likely be in the $30k range while at the same time making aviation safer for everyone;"

Can you clarify that statement? What can the FAA do to allow more free market competition? In fact, the Cessna SkyCrasher isn't an FAA Certified aircraft at all. It's a light sport aircraft, and as such, doesn't need to be certified by the FAA. It's built to a standard that is called ASTM. That standard is defined as an industry consensus, that way, the cost is significantly lower. In fact, it's far lower than a traditional FAR Part 23 certified aircraft like the Cessna 172 which costs more than twice as much.

Bill

Re:Cessna manufacturing in China (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 4 years ago | (#30585350)

What was the reason the FAA created the LSA category? Even they realized that aircraft certification had become too cumbersome and expensive for anyone to build and certify a new design.

Unfortunately, while the LSA category is a step in the right direction, there are still a number of restrictions that make it less than ideal for those who want to fly for recreation (i.e., not as a provider of air travel services): you can't fly at night; you can't fly above 10,000 feet MSL; an LSA can have no more than two seats; etc. If you want to do any of these things, you need to buy a *certified* airplane, which means either you are buying a 20+ year old design (Cessna 172/182/206, most of the Piper singles and twins) or you spending well over a million dollars for a VLJ or turboprop.

I fly an airplane that qualifies under the experimental LSA regs, and one of the biggest drawbacks (and the reason I am thinking of selling my airplane) is that I can't carry both my wife and my daughter in it, which certainly limits the utility of the airplane. If I want to take it out for solo practice, it's great, but the truth is, I can't really do anything useful with it.

Re:Cessna manufacturing in China (1)

yabos (719499) | more than 4 years ago | (#30586334)

Even the LSA's are ridiculously expensive IMO. While they're nice, they're still not affordable by most people. Look at the Remos GX, over $100,000 USD for a new one and it's "just" an LSA, severely restricting what you can actually use it for like you say. While many people can afford ~$50,000 USD for an SUV, doubling that for something like an LSA plane is beyond insane to me.
With the Remos GX and some other newer planes, they're finally moving to composites which is good but the tech. behind most of these planes hasn't changed for quite a while. You're still stuck with a 100 HP Lycoming in the 162 SkyCatcher for example and it runs on a carbureted fuel system. Why these engines still cost $20,000 brand new is beyond me. Sure the market is low but the amount of metal that makes these engines up and the technology behind them is basically the same as it was 30 years ago.

Coming to the end of my private pilot training, I'm most likely going to end up getting some 20-30 year old beast that at least I can afford, near $30,000-$40,000.

Re:Cessna manufacturing in China (1)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30589274)

Actually, you are confusing the aircraft certification with the pilots certificate. A certificated Private Pilot can fly a properly equipped LSA aircraft at night or above 10,000 feet, however, a pilot with a Light Sport Certificate can not.

As for the seats, yes, that is a limiting factor of LSA aircraft. But I currently fly a Beech Skipper, which is also just as limited, yet is still certified.

Bill

Re:Cessna manufacturing in China (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#30585928)

In fact, the Cessna SkyCrasher isn't an FAA Certified aircraft at all. It's a light sport aircraft, and as such, doesn't need to be certified by the FAA. I

You did catch me making a snafu there. As a light sport, you're right that its not technically "certified". It is, however, declared to be in compliance with ASTM, of which the FAA does verify. My understanding the FAA does tersely verify with manufacturer at least some intent of compliance - unofficially. In that vein, the SkyCatcher isn't really the best example to hold high as I did. Accordingly you are right to rebuke me on it.

Just the same, the point remains, aviation is well over twice as expensive as it needs to be because of liability issues.

 

Re:Cessna manufacturing in China (1)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30589294)

However, I still don't see how that is an FAA issue. The FAA has nothing to do with liability, it's the court system and the insurance industry that does that.

Bill

Re:Cessna manufacturing in China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30583120)

Yes, lawyers make aviation expensive, and Cessna markup is huge because they haven't changed the design of their piston aircraft in 30 years and they are funding their Citation development (which doesn't make much profit). I know because I worked for the guy who made the last major design change to the 172 (vertical tail) and I reviewed avionics retrofit kits for supplemental type certification for the 525. With everything else though, you are way off base.

There's no free market competition? There are lots of aircraft companies out there, but that doesn't mean all are successful. Look at the VLJ companies. Eclipse had potential, but they didn't have good engineering or manufacturing processes. My friends at Cessna would tell me that when asked why someone should buy a Mustang over an Eclipse 500, they would tell that person "just look at the Eclipse, look at the build quality, then look at the Mustang." Even though the Mustang costs more, its clearly the better airplane.

The price difference between experimental vs. certified has a lot to do with the time involved in the certification process and the level of trust you can put in the hardware/software. Engineers, DERs, and mechanics are not cheap. For avionics, the software test cases must test every possible condition, and document every result possible from every line of code, and this process requires a lot of time and effort. Just installing avionics in Part 23 aircraft (either as an STC'd retrofit or an R&R job) requires a mechanic from an avionics shop. The point of all the testing and the main reason avionics are expensive is because they are designed to keep you alive. Avionics and medical electronics go through very similar rigor in engineering and testing.

Where you got the idea that experimental avionics are better than certified avionics is beyond me. If you fly into IMC with experimental avionics, you're suicidal, plain and simple. While much of the hardware *can* be the same between "equivalent" IFR-certified equipment and experimental equipment (e.g. G1000 vs. G900X) there's nothing that specifies they *must* be the same.

Better yet, just read the entirety of FAR Part 43.

Cessnas (4, Insightful)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#30584184)

I have the privilege of being able to inspect a lot of cessnas (couple dozen or so) from fully complete up to date and functional to a hangar fulla parts, and every stage in between, including one crashed one where the bonehead decided to fly his groceries with him instead of buying them where he was going, and didn't estimate his weight correctly and didn't make it. He lived through it, but the plane is chunky style now spread out and he needed a lot of re-constructive surgery from what I hear. (old airport where I live, besides being a big farm, I maintain the grounds and fences and do the mowing, etc)

There has GOT to be a better way to build affordable airplanes. What that might be I don't know, but this old traditional way needs some serious rethinking. Those things are *ridiculous*, and absolutely no wonder why they are expensive and need a lot of reliability insurance, etc. They are made of one zillion tiny pieces of aluminum held together with 100 zillion rivets. Even the ones in good shape aren't capable of keeping their own doors shut if they aren't keylocked, I have to go around and reclose them all the time. I can't see how they keep from getting recalled, rube goldberg doesn't come close to what they are. It's no wonder they need massive inspections and certifications and insurance, etc. and cost so much.

I have no idea on the quality of other brands and makes, but if one were given to me I'd sell it pronto and look around some more.

can i ask what china doesn't do yet (1)

CHRONOSS2008 (1226498) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581878)

so we can give that to them to do as well
yes slaves of china we need you to milk our cows
shovel our shit
and fly us around

Easily plotted. (1)

quadelirus (694946) | more than 4 years ago | (#30581900)

"You could easily plot these adventurous innovators on a graph, with the X axis showing their skill and the Y axis their financial means."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but can't you "easily plot" any 2D set of related numbers on an XY graph?

Re:Easily plotted. (1)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 4 years ago | (#30582334)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but can't you "easily plot" any 2D set of related numbers on an XY graph?

Sure, but consult a patent lawyer first.

Re:Easily plotted. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30584908)

And dont forget the copyright lawyers :)

I'm confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30582340)

"You could easily plot these adventurous innovators on a graph, with the X axis showing their skill and the Y axis their financial means."

Great, I could plot something. WHAT THE FUCK WOULD IT MEAN?

wait and see (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30582528)

I wonder how long it'll be before some bureaucracy sees an opportunity to regulate them out of existence. Seems likely that do-it-yourself anything would be scary to the authorities unless you provide the appropriate bribes which demonstrate the safety of your activity.

Joy of flight (1)

Bobberly (1677220) | more than 4 years ago | (#30583638)

Sadly most people never get to experience the joy of flight (flying buses don't count). Homebuilt aircraft are less expensive but have a safety concern. I applaud the Chinese for exploring other avenues. I own one of the smallest general aviation aircraft you can get -- a Cessna 150. My annual costs (insurance / hangar / annual inspection / maintanance) run $10,000 - $12,000. Then add in fuel (6 gallons/hour * $3.80/gallon) and you get a real expensive hobby. People love it when I take them flying. Despite the bad press (general aviation is NOT a threat to national security) it would take severe unemployment for me to ever give up flying any type of aircraft. I can only imagine if the US imposes user fees what will happen to non-commericial flying. You want to encourage people to use air traffic control for safetly. Not avoid it to save a few $$$

More than just China and aircraft (4, Interesting)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30584208)

A huge trend in the near future (0-20 years) will be home and distributed engineering (inventing) and manufacturing. People will trade information on technologies, how-to information, plans, and parts to make sophisticated products in their home or workshop.

This is not to say we're all going to get replicators or nanotech manufacturing like in "The Diamond Age" but the level of sophistication of home built products is going to go way, way up. From small appliances to tools to vehicles to weapons, it'll be possible to make a large number of items in places other than traditional factories, in small quantity and high quality.

To see this sort of thing emerging, look at efforts like Reprap to make a self replicating 3d prototyping machine (which probably won't be 100% self replicating for a long time, but which is a great starting point for at-home applications of the technology) or home CNC machines like router tables and small CNC machine tools. You can buy a CNC milling machine capable of producing small parts eg. for firearms and small engines for less than $3000 with computer. Once these become widespread part libraries for them will be as available as clip-art. Want a new part for your bicycle? Download the pattern, place the raw material in the machine, and walk away.

As quality items become harder to find in mass produced outlets, items made at home will take their place. Any item with a niche market will probably be made in these mini manufactoria... there won't be a profit any more in making small quantity items since there'll be tremendous competition from small manufacturers.

No need to keep an inventory of obscure auto parts on hand (or to pay for storage space or sunk costs in the inventory). Just keep the pattern available and churn out parts as needed. Need a part you don't have a pattern for? Ask someone on the internet to measure their part and make a pattern from it, using the same CNC mill to automate the measurements.

I like the trend myself... but can you imagine the fit the government will throw when it figures out it can no longer regulate eg. firearms because anyone with a CNC mill can turn one out in a day or two? I can see them at first trying to ban home manufacturing, trying to ban precursor items and materials, then trying to create an overarching government agency to police the whole thing.

It'll be similar to recording companies figuring out they're no longer needed since anyone can distribute or purchase music on-line without their involvement.

Likewise I can see large corporate manufacturers of some items begging for a government bail-out because no one wants to buy their mass produced crap any more. Why pay $100 for a cheap wal-mart bike when the CNC machine shop in the next town can produce one with 3x the quality for the same price? Why pay a computer store $35 for a plastic keyboard when you can get a solid brass one with better components made at home?

Erik PS: For those of you that know what this means... we'll be able to evolve an STC pattern for common items :)

Re:More than just China and aircraft (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 4 years ago | (#30586210)

can you imagine the fit the government will throw when it figures out it can no longer regulate eg. firearms because anyone with a CNC mill can turn one out in a day or two?

This is already possible and criminals do it [wikipedia.org] .

Re:More than just China and aircraft (1)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30586560)

Yes, but there's a world of difference between a talented criminal making a working revolver or two and every john doe who can run a computer being able to turn out automatic weapons....

Re:More than just China and aircraft (2, Interesting)

HeyLaughingBoy (182206) | more than 4 years ago | (#30587370)

The only people making firearms non-commercially in the USA are hobbyists. For everyone else, buying them at WalMart is easy enough.

I have a benchtop milling machine and enjoy using it (would like to get a lathe soon). I understand where you're coming from, but just because the ability is there doesn't mean people will take advantage of it. Cheap manual mills and lathes have been available for a long time and the only ones buying them are retired machinists and hobbyists. The "average Joe" could care less. How many people even do woodwork as a hobby these days? And that stuff is readily available at Home Depot and much cheaper than precision metal tools.

Make your own car parts? Sure if you have a DXF or other CAD file of the part... for free (you don't think the guy making the drawing for you wants to get paid? Dimensioning a part to tenths and then making a drawing takes time and experience)... and the correct alloy... and you can get it ground to the right finish... Not to mention that the stuff you can make at home tends not to be the stuff that breaks -- when was the last time you had to replace an axle stub? A seat bracket?

It's a nice idea, but I'm not holding my breath.

Re:More than just China and aircraft (1)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30588378)

There's a world of difference between benchtop tools and small CNC. The latter requires far less skill to produce far more complex parts. More to the point, CNC permits easy replication or repeated parts with high tolerances. Make one for yourself, and one for a friend.

There'll always be professional engineers and drafters, but there are also people who love to design things for free.. witness the availability of free CNC machine designs online, and patterns to run on them. Or free software, for that matter.

Woodwork and metalwork are apples and oranges. You can make some nice things with wood, but unless you love having nice furniture, the options are limited. For metal though, you can make machine parts that will handle large forces and wear well.

Note that I'm not saying that all things will be made at home... just some things, enough to turn the economy on its ear and change the way the government has to try to control objects... which is a futile endeavor anyway.

Oddly enough I had to replace an axle stub about a month ago :)

Re:More than just China and aircraft (1)

King Coopa (1374689) | more than 4 years ago | (#30587028)

Yes! This right here is the next step in the evolution of human ingenuity. Fascinating specious, aren't we?

All this time of worrying about outsourcing manufacturing to China, but soon we will be outsourcing to our own garages! Though, as history shows we will use this capability to find wondrous new ways to kill each other. Man the future freaks me out some times.

Re:More than just China and aircraft (2, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#30587484)

People will trade information on technologies, how-to information, plans, and parts to make sophisticated products in their home or workshop.

Yeah well, don't be so optimistic. You can bet there are certain groups [sfgate.com] who will always be out to nip that kind of thing at the bud.

Re:More than just China and aircraft (2, Insightful)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30588494)

True, but don't forget one of the more famous sayings of the internet age: "Information wants to be free." There's no better way to publicize the practice of at-home manufacturing than by having some large corporation whine about it :)

Re:More than just China and aircraft (2, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30588134)

Making things is more complicated then you give it credit.

Very much in general:

Before you machine a part you often start with a rough casting or billet.

After you machine a part you might heat treat and/or electroplate it, depending.

After that you might do a final grind or EDM (Electric Discharge Machining), depending.

Heat treatment, beyond the torch and quench, will never be anything other then hazardous and industrial. I wouldn't set up an arsenic salt bath at home, even if it were easy.

The same is true for electroplating, although I've seen that some intrepid individuals are playing/working at that.

Re:More than just China and aircraft (2, Insightful)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30588466)

Again, It's true that some things cannot/will not be made at home, always.

You're wrong about heat treating, by the way. Plenty of folks out there have set up their own small foundries, and are casting aluminum and iron. Plenty of other folks (like me) have computer controlled kilns for case hardening.

I think if some complex process is a stumbling block to making a desired item, the designer will try to work around it... redesign a part so it doesn't need the complex process, or substitute a process that can be performed simply. If you post on certain engineering or DIY boards online with a challenge like "design a toaster that can be built with hand tools" you'll get 20-30 people giving it a shot.

I'm not saying that grandma is going to have a forging press in her living room. I'm saying that there will probably be a couple of people living in her town that build things, and then a couple more, until down the line the "best" stuff won't come from big factories, but from small shops. eg. look at the high end bicycle world... all the top of the line stuff is from tiny makers who specialize in a small list of items.

If you have enough people... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30585676)

It takes more than 4 Chinese to build an aircraft, because two Wongs don't make a Wright.

Too bad we can't do something like that (1)

spectro (80839) | more than 4 years ago | (#30585860)

We have so much regulation in this country we just can't experiment with new kinds of airplanes or invent a new way of air travel. Imagine all the red tape you will have to go through just to put the damn plane together.

The FAA has frozen innovation in the airplane industry: we still base our airplane designs in the same basic principles invented 100 years ago because trying something new would require years of research and testing just to comply with their safety requirements.

I predict these chinese inventors will propel a new way of air travel while the US will be left way behind.

Confusious Say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30587680)

Man no wing fry down frast
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