Rural Chinese worker building the ‘most authentic model of A320’ from scratch

By Zhang Yu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/8 20:29:04

Zhu Yue and his friends build a full-scale replica of the Airbus A320 plane, in Kaiyuan, Liaoning Province on April 3. Photo: VCG

Zhu Yue, a 40-year-old farmer turned mechanic, has built an airplane. Even though it can't fly.

Hailing from Kaiyuan, Northeast China's Liaoning Province, Zhu made a life-scale replica of an Airbus A320 measuring 37.8 meters long, 36 meters wide, and 12 meters tall.

The airplane has almost finished construction and is now having its cockpit built and interior furnished.

"Although it can't fly like a real A320, I want to make it the most authentic model of an A320 in China," Zhu told the Global Times. He said so far, he had spent over 2.6 million yuan ($380,000). He has used over 60 tons of steel, the first of many reasons it could never fly.

Zhu Yue welds a model turbine on the plane in Kaiyuan, Liaoning Province on April 3. Photo: VCG

Flying dream

In 1986, China Central Television aired the news of how American aviators Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager flew the first non-stop, non-refueled flight around the world on Voyageur, an airplane designed by themselves. The news marveled many Chinese who hadn't yet had a chance to fly, including Zhu, who was then 8 years old. He hoped he could make a plane and pilot one, just like the two Americans.

But Zhu knows with his knowledge and budget, he would never be able to build a plane that flies. Like may children in China's rural areas, he dropped out of middle school to learn practical skills and make a living from them. He picked what he thought was nearest to aircraft building — welding and repairing motorcycles.

In the years that followed, he repaired motorcycles and cars, opened a car parts factory, and built up some savings.

As he enters middle age, he has decided to realize his childhood dream.

 had always had a passion for building and inventing, and he does it just for fun. In his spare time, Zhu once made a xylophone with PVC tubes which could hit 20 notes and play real music.

"I haven't had much education. I dropped out of middle school to learn a trade. But building airplanes is my childhood dream," Zhu said.

In October 2016, Zhu gathered five fellow farmer-mechanics and the team started to work on his plane. He first spent three months researching the plane, including buying toy airplane models, dismantling them and finding materials online. Zhu and his fellow workers gathered stacks of research notes that ended up weighing 10 kilograms. Eventually he drew a sketch of the airplane with pencils.

The workers then weathered freezing coldness in Northeast China to build the plane in a factory lent to them by a local owner. From the fuselage to engines to wings, they studied their toy models and online pictures and built each part from scratch.

Zhu said due to the lack of experience, he failed five times when making the airplane nose, unable to make it resemble the real plane. "I couldn't sleep. But when I eventually made it, I couldn't sleep either because I was so excited."

Although the plane isn't designed to fly, he built a real, rotatable fan blade in the engine just to make it look more real.

As the plane takes shape, the team gains more confidence. "Previously, when people asked us what we were doing, we said we were welding things. Now when they ask us, we tell them we're building an airplane. We're really proud of ourselves," he told

After they finish the construction of the airplane, Zhu hopes to turn it into a high-end restaurant. Waitresses will dress like air hostesses, and customers will feel like they're inside their own private plane, Zhu said. He said the restaurant is set to open by the end of this year.

Zhu Yue holds a model of the Airbus A320, as he and his friends work to build a full-scale replica of the plane, in Kaiyuan, Liaoning Province on April 3. Photo: VCG

Online celebrity

Many people questioned the purpose of Zhu of investing so much money into something that doesn't have much use. Some even thought he did this just to be famous. But Zhu brushed all this off.

"I'm almost 40. If I don't do it now I will regret it my whole life," he said.

"Psychologically I think I'm always 25. I have an innocent heart, and I dare to dream," he said.

As Zhu built the plane, he shot short videos of every step and uploaded them to video sharing app Kuaishou.

With his classic Northeast China humor and fun short videos of him making the plane, Zhu immediately attracted a big fan base.

In some videos, Zhu shoots his ongoing project, such as a photo of A320 cockpit and the current cockpit. In others, Zhu and his fellow workers board and unboard the plane pretending they are celebrities.

Using the handle "Migrant workers building an aircraft," he has so far uploaded 119 videos and gathered over 650,000 followers, including some who work in the real aviation industry. Some fly a long way to Tieling to see him and his plane.

Kuaishou is also bringing in money and business opportunities. One follower offered him 6,000 yuan for an advertisement on the plane. Another owner of a decoration company offered to provide free furnishing and decoration of the plane's interior, on the condition that he help promote his company.

Zhu doesn't know business rules, but he knows these sponsorships will help him realize his dream sooner than he expected.

Newspaper headline: Ready for takeoff

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