Sunday, June 8, 2008

Not Classic Jetliners (6) : Shanghai Y-10

The Y-10 was the first attempt by China to produce it's own jet airliner and until the ARJ21 takes off later this year the only attempt. The Y-10 was developed by the Shanghai Aviation Industrial Company in the 1970s as a four engined passenger transport to free China from dependence on foreign suppliers. The Y-10 looks very much like a Boeing 707, which China did have a small number of at the time, though it has been denied that it was an example of reverse engineering.

The programme was also started to give the Chinese aviation industry experience with large jet powered transports and for national pride. Politics in fact were heavily tied up in the project which was spearheaded by Wang Hongwen. As he, and the Mao era, fell out of favour so did enthusiasm for the Y-10 which was increasingly seen as a throwback to the days of isolationism.

In 1980 the Y-10 made it's first flight but the only flyable Y-10 (another airframe was used for static testing) made 130 flights before being retired in 1983. The project was cancelled for cost and technical reasons though politics is likely to have been the main reason. No high-up party officials attended the Y-10's maiden flight because it was tainted with Wang Hongwen. Instead China began to licence produce the McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

As the 707 is my favourite jet airliner of all its a shame the Y-10 never took off (so to speak). There was some development work on a possible AWACS version however in the end China used the Il-76.

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