Tuesday, November 25, 2014

2014 Zhuhai Airshow / China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition 2014 珠海航展

This was my second time down to the biannual China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition ("Zhuhai Airshow"), the largest airshow in mainland China. Air demonstration teams from China, Russia and the UAE flew, while Washington grounded the South Korean team just a few weeks before the show.

I wanted to see the the still secretive Shenyang J-31 fighter, what's billed as a fifth-generation fighterwith China and the US the only countries to have reached such level, according to some industry observers—but it only flew on the days before I visited.

The J-31 is supposedly a hybrid of stolen plans from the F-35 and the amazing F-22. Its role likely is to carry out anti-access and area-denial strategies in the Western Pacific. Smartly it is a twin engine design unlike the ridiculous single-engine F-35. When and do engines fail, pilots ejecting in remote areas like the Arctic could wait up to a day for rescue—a key argument against Canada's procurement of such planes.

One US pilot recently remarked that all US fourth-generation fighters including the AV-8, F-15 and F/A-18 would be unable to go head-to-head against the J-31 in a dogfight. Thankfully it's been decades since major powers budded heads in the sky, since the Vietnam war. But at least for now, Western pilots are assuredly the top guns.

This is the first time the Xian Y-20 "transport", with its sickly weak engines, flew in public. China hasn't yet mastered making engines powerful enough for such heavy transport planes, relying Russian imports of engines and parts. 

Poor visibility (read: pollution) grounded the super-maneuverable Sukhoi Su-35 fighter , with its thunderous Saturn 117S engines. Beijing placed an order for two dozen. 

Meeting the pilots at shows is great fun, but they are fast becoming unnecessary. And at least regarding passenger flights, pilots are increasingly unable to quickly handle emergency situations. Years ago I read about how more than half of air-travel deaths are the result of “controlled flight into terrain” (CFIT), industry-speak for “the plane was working perfectly, but the pilot flew it into the ground”.  Some of the most spectacular crashes of late are suspected to have been CFIT, likely because pilots are spending significantly less time actually flying and are often unable to quickly take control in emergency situations after the autopilot disengages (notably Air France 447 and Asiana Airlines 214).

The Chinese PLA Bayi team (八一) in their clunky J-10s, but flying much better this year. They must be getting in some good practice. This year they had more female pilots flying than ever before.

Russian Knights:

Shanghai TV station host:


I'd hazard a guess that some of these UAE Knights pilots, shown here in their little Aermacchi MB-339A Italian military trainers/light attack planes with cute colourful trails, have been bombing ISIL positions back in Syria and Iraq. Just like the CF-18 pilots from Canada. The nice thing about the Chinese pilots I saw flying is that they are not using living ammunition on anyone. 

The first A380 ever built, the F-WWOW (or is that F-WWOW!. The pilot really pushed its limits banking, climbing and seemingly nearly stalling. I didn't realize this graceful plane could be so highly maneuverable.

From the biggest to the smallest in the sky. Among the jets, I kept getting buzzed by a dragonfly.

Below, the Russian Knights in their Su-27 heavy fighters. Somehow in my travels I've been to the birthplace of these birds, a place out of Clint Eastwood's "Firefox", Komsolmosk-nar-Amure in the Far East of Russia.

The first time I met Lt. Col. Sergey he couldn't smile, but now that he's flying the $65 million Su-35 Super Flanker, he's all teeth (shown at his far right, below).

Please don't try this at home. Learning "keeping up foreign relations" as per Maverick and Goose flippin' the bird, literally.

A USAF C-17 from Hawaii:

Above, checking out the Su-35, and below, the J-20. This photo has American, Russian and Chinese planes all within the same frame.

Fears of more US technology theft had Washington recently pressure to cancel the ROK's Black Eagle demonstration team in their Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace Industries-built T-50s.

SkyNet's future toys, post-Singularity:

Below, the Russian Knights team checking out Bell Helicopters.

Weapons and space gadgetry galore. Touched the little boy inside me. Need more toys!

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