Reverse engineered EADS Socata aircraft aimed at burgeoning Chinese training and personal aircraft market

China's Shijiazhuang Aircraft Industry plans to begin flight testing a reverse engineered EADS Socata TB20 this month, aimed at the burgeoning Chinese training and personal aircraft market.

The LE-500 Little Eagle, seating four to five, has been developed by China Aviation Industry Corp II's Shijiazhaung, China Aviation Industry Corp I's aircraft design institute and the China Civil Aviation Flying College (CCAFA). The CCAFA operates about 70 older model TB20 Trinidads that will need replacing starting in 2005.

Shijiazhuang project manager Lv Jing Sheng says there is already an agreement for CCAFA to take Little Eagles but the orders are not yet firm and the delivery schedule has yet to be negotiated. Western manufacturers say they are also discussing possible deals with CCAFA to replace its TB20 fleet, starting with an order for 15 to 20 trainers for delivery by the end of 2005, and doubt the Little Eagle will successfully come to market.

The LE-500 has been designed without the co-operation of EADS Socata although the aircraft mimics the TB20 Trinidad GT. Both are powered by variants of the Lycoming IO-560 engine and share several performance specifications, including a 300km/h (162kt) cruise speed and a 1,400kg (3080lb) maximum take-off weight. Jing says the Little Eagle project is being pursued to give Shijiazhuang and China's aerospace industry a product in the four- to 10-seat category. Shijiazhuang already manufactures the W6 Dragonfly ultralight, with one to two seats, and the Y5B, a licence-built Antonov An-2 with 10 to 12 seats.

Jing says the first LE-500 prototype has been completed and will make its maiden flight by the end of October.

Source: Flight International