A group of military cadres and engineers designed the first Vietnamese planes in the 1970s.
From Gen. Giap’s suggestions …
Air Defense and Air Force Museum’s staff are running against time to organise an exhibition on the process of designing and manufacturing the first Vietnamese planes.
Colonel Nguyen Van Hai, former Chief of Aviation Equipment under the Institute of Air Force and Air Defense Techniques, who took part in the designing of the planes, said that in 1976 he and Truong Khanh Chau, Chief of Air Force Institute for Military Techniques (then became Deputy Minister of Defense) went to the U.S.S.R to do post-graduate dissertations, majoring in aircraft.
At that time, a high-ranking military delegation led by General Vo Nguyen Giap visited the U.S.S.R.
General Giap asked Truong Khanh Chau to come and suggested that he and other Vietnamese engineers would develop research and design planes to serve the military development and the military industry in Vietnam.
Chau then shared the general’s recommendation with Hai. In 1977, they finished their post-graduate programme and returned to Vietnam.
After the Army Party Committee approved a resolution in March 1978, the pilot programme to design and manufacture small planes was set up.
Truong Khanh Chau was appointed director of the programme while Nguyen Van Hai and Cao Van Binh were his deputy directors.
Hai was in charge of the Designing Department and Binh was in charge of the Manufacturing Workshop.
There were only 14 officers, including 12 aviation engineers and two engineers who graduated from Hanoi Poly-Techniques University, at the beginning of the programme.
Vo Van Phuc, a Vietnamese-French, also worked as a consultant in the designing. He had worked in a big aviation company in France since 1936 before joining the programme.
Mr. Phuc worked enthusiastically and returned to Vietnam many times to teach the team.
…to historical successes
Hai said that the programme’s difficulties did not come from the U.S embargo but the knowledge in plane manufacturing.
“After many years of wars, it was the time to research and manufacture military equipment,” Hai said.
“The materials and financial resources were not limited,” he added.
The Socata Rallye, the French four-seat airplane, was then used as a model for the design and the workshop was set up at 166, Hoang Van Thai Street, Hanoi.
After three years of designing and manufacturing based on the US Federal Aviation Law Far-25, the first reconnaissance and communication plane was born.
The plane, named TL1, was completed in August 1980 and had its maiden flight at Hoa Lac Airport.
The pilot who tested the plane was Nguyen Xuan Hien. He then became General Director of Vietnam Aviation Corporation.
At the test, all the engineers were very nervous. They stood 200 metres far from each other to observe the movement of the plane.
However, the first pilot flight failed and the plane could not take off until September 25th, 1980.
In this flight, the TL1 could fly at an altitude of 200 metres.
Minister of Defence, General Van Tien Dung directly went to the Air Force Command to congratulate them on the success of the first made-in-Vietnam, and by Vietnamese, airplane.
After that, the TL1 completed its pilot programme with ten flights and 102 minutes in the air.
The plane could reach the speed of 220 kilometres an hour at the altitude of 1,400 metres but the weak engine cooler prevented it from flying higher.
In December 1980, General Secretary Le Duan visited Hoa Lac Airport to observe the flight of TL1 and to encourage the staff of the institute.
Following the success of TL1, the Ministry of Defense asked the institute to design a training plane for pilots.
In 1984, the training plane HL1 was completed.
Inheriting experiences from TL1, HL1 took off successfully in its maiden flight. It then completed a pilot flight programme with ten flying lessons, 23 take-offs and landings and ten hours in the air.
The test results showed that HL1 could be used to train pilots. It could reach the speed of 275 kilometres an hour at the altitude of 4,500 metres. The fastest speed of the plane was 356 kilometres an hour and it could fly between two hours and a half to four hours.
The HL1 could carry eight rockets.
On July 24th 1984, President of the Ministerial Council Pham Van Dong visited Gia Lam Airport to congratulate the institute and presented a 12-seat Latvia car to the designing and manufacturing team.
After that, the Ministry of Defence asked the institute to research and manufacture a plane that could take off and land on the water.
In 1987, the institute completed a HL2 that could take off and land on water surfaces. However, due to economic difficulties of the time, the project was then suspended.
Hai said that, the targets of the programme were still reached because Vietnam trained aviation staff who worked in key position for the civil aviation in the country.
Source: Tien Phong
Translated by Ngoc Hung