Taiwan is re-enacting aviation history, but it’s not new

A vintage plane pulled to the top of its runway by four steamrollers in full-scale re-enactment of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and passengers looked on in awe. A week later, more than 2,000 excited travelers spotted the gleaming aluminum plane in the skies above Taipei’s Xiamen International Airport. The now-famous craft is an engineering marvel, but it’s not the first. In fact, Taiwan has been re-enacting aviation history since the first rendition of the long-distance plane occurred in 1958.

Coincidentally, in the five decades that have passed since then, Taiwan has grown rapidly from a sleepy, agricultural economy into a high-tech powerhouse. From the year 2000 to 2015, Taiwan’s economy grew at 6.5 percent, second only to China’s in Asia, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Gross domestic product increased to $1.04 trillion last year from $168 billion in 1990.

Hans-Georg Maes, a jet-setter who chairs the Hengdian Aircraft Design Institute — a world-renowned air craft manufacturer with a fleet of the first H-1 bus — was responsible for the latest re-enactment. An industrial consultant, Maes encouraged the co-founders of his company to pursue entrepreneurship, leading them to create another company, Taiwan Aviation Engineering & Construction Company, in 2014. These days, the group of four Taiwanese-speaking Boeing engineers designs and builds aircraft while also selling engineering services around the world.

“The whole re-enactment process involves a very methodical design work,” Maes explained. “It needs to be done at the right moment because of the time constraints. We’ve started re-enactments over the past five years, and the re-enactment of the world’s first re-engineered jetliner began in 1958.”

The re-enactment of the world’s first re-engineered jetliner began in 1958. (swissair)

So how long did it take to build the 1966 SS2, and where did it go? Though what happened to the plane is unclear, the Swissair jet is visible within Hengdian’s aviation engine plant. However, for the future history lesson, Hengdian’s next-generation EJ200 turboprop plane could be a lot closer than the SS2 — an EJ200 prototype was built in 1985 and is now being produced at Hengdian, as well.

Earlier this year, the World Bank reported that aviation was the world’s fastest-growing industry, growing by 5.7 percent annually, powered in part by record passenger traffic. That’s why the re-enactment of ancient aviation history is raising flying enthusiasts’ eyebrows.

Read the full story at CNN.


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