The successive maiden flight of Y-20 was indeed exciting news for Chinese people, however people shall be aware that the development of a large transport aircraft is very difficult and will take a lot of time. China cannot rely on import for the development of its air force as neither the US nor Russia is willing to sell their most advanced large transport aircrafts to China. Y-20 is better than Russian Il-76 in various indexes, but still faces many challenges
Major General Qiao Liang of Chinese air force was very excited at the successful maiden flight of Y-2 as he has the experience of flying on various Chinese transport aircrafts during his 40 years of career in the air force. He said none of the China-made Y-8 and Y7H or the Il-76 imported from Russia is enough for the development of Chinese air force.
In spite of rooms for improvement, the successful maiden flight of Y-20 was a stride in China’s efforts to enter the “elite aviation club” in the world.
Qiao said that the most challenging parts in developing an aircraft are the wings, alloy/synthetic material and engine.
Wings are one of the key parts which few top enterprises contract the development to outside contractor. Still the Aviation Industry Corporation of China seeks Ukrainian Antonov’s help in developing the wings of its ARJ-21 (jet).
The development of alloy is a very demanding job. Russia has invested huge resources in it. China seems to still lack knowledge in that area.
Finally, engine remains the weakest area of China’s aircraft industry, in fact, a bottleneck in China’s aircraft development.
For a military transport aircraft, turbofan has been proved the best choice of engines due to its low consumption of fuel.
Li Jie, research fellow of China Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told media that like other aircraft projects, Y-20 project faces the same difficult problem–engine. However, if China is able to resolve that problem, its capability to send troops to the battle field and relief materials to disaster-affected areas will be greatly enhanced.
“The cycle of engine development is 5 to 6 or even more years longer than that of fuselage development. Engine development has always been a bottleneck in China’s aircraft industry. There is Western technology blockage in that area against China,” said Qiao Liang.
Y-20 is now equipped with 4 Russian D-30 engines, but their thrust is not big enough. However, Qiao said China is developing China-made engines for Y-20 and close to success. In the future, Y-20 may carry 10 tons more load with such engines.