A Chinese farmer could not fly a plane, so he built one

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The full-scale replica of the Airbus A320 built by farmer Zhu Yue is now nearly finished. (AFP)
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Farmer Zhu Yue invested his savings of more than 2.6 million yuan ($374,000) into the project that began with a toy model of an Airbus 320. (AFP)
Updated 26 October 2018

A Chinese farmer could not fly a plane, so he built one

  • The full-scale replica of the Airbus A320 built by farmer Zhu Yue is now nearly finished
  • ‘I hit midlife and realized I couldn’t buy one, but I could build one’

BEIJING: When a Chinese garlic farmer’s dream of flying an airplane didn’t pan out, he decided to build one instead.
The full-scale replica of the Airbus A320 built by farmer Zhu Yue is now nearly finished, permanently taxied on a short piece of tarmac surrounded by wheat fields in northeast China.
Zhu didn’t finish middle school, and started out farming onions and garlic before moving on to welding work in a factory in the small city of Kaiyuan.
Last year he realized he may never be able to fly a plane.
“I hit midlife and realized I couldn’t buy one, but I could build one,” he said.
He has invested his savings of more than 2.6 million yuan ($374,000) into the project that began with a toy model of an Airbus 320 shrunken to one-eightieth its original size.
With that he measured dimensions, studied online photos, and with a heap of mistakes, crafted the fuselage, wings, cockpit, engines and tail. He used 60 tons of steel.
Five fellow aircraft enthusiasts-cum-laborers have helped speed the project along.
“On the one hand they’re earning money, on the other they’re fulfilling dreams, accomplishing things,” Zhu said.
The homemade Airbus will not be flying any time soon. Zhu has decided to turn it into a diner.
The plane’s latest additions are a self-made cockpit outfitted with replica flight instruments and a stair car for getting aboard.
“We will put down a red carpet so every person who comes to eat will feel like a head of state,” Zhu said.
On board the A320’s customary 156 seats have been turned into 36 first class chairs for customers, Zhu said.
He is not yet sure if he will serve hamburgers and French fries or regular Chinese food that the locals may prefer.
Parked not far from the interstate, Zhu is hopeful the plane will soon fill up with hungry passengers.


No cheating: Frenchwoman was world’s oldest person, researchers say

Updated 16 September 2019

No cheating: Frenchwoman was world’s oldest person, researchers say

  • Calment “remains the oldest human whose age is well-documented”

PARIS: Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who died two decades ago aged 122, should retain the title of the oldest person on record, French researchers said Monday, rejecting claims of fraud.
Ageing specialists Jean-Marie Robine and Michel Allard, who declared Calment the longest-lived person in the 1990s, said their review of old and new data confirmed she “remains the oldest human whose age is well-documented.”
“Recently the claim that families Calment and Billot (her in-laws) organized a conspiracy concerning tax fraud based on identity fraud between mother and daughter gained international media attention,” Robine, Allard and two other researchers wrote in The Journals of Gerontology.
“Here, we reference the original components of the validation as well as additional documentation to address various claims of the conspiracy theory and provide evidence for why these claims are based on inaccurate facts,” they wrote.
Calment, who used to joke that God must have forgotten her, died in southern France in 1997, setting a longevity record that has been questioned.
Last December, Russian researchers Valery Novoselov and Nikolay Zak claimed in a report that Calment had actually died in 1934 and that her daughter Yvonne stole her identity to avoid paying inheritance tax.
According to their research, the woman who died in 1997 was Yvonne, not her mother, and at a young 99.
The Russian report was based on biographies, interviews and photos of Jeanne Calment, witness testimony, and public records of the city of Arles where she lived.
The new article insists Calment’s identity “has not been usurped,” according to a statement from the French research institute INSERM, where Robine works as research director.
The authors cross-checked the original data used to validate the centenarian’s identity with newly uncovered documents, to show “there was neither tax fraud nor falsification of Jeanne Calment’s identity” the article says.
The team also turned to mathematical modelling to counter arguments that her considerable age was impossible.
In every 10 million centenarians, one can reach the age of 123, they said, “a probability that is certainly small, but that is far from making Ms Calment a statistical impossibility.”
“All the documents uncovered contradict the Russian thesis,” Robine told AFP, as the team demanded a retraction from Zak and Novoselov.
Novoselov, however, insisted Monday that the original work verifying Calment’s identity and age “is full of flaws and mistakes,” while Zak said he found the new article “weak.”
Born on February 21, Calment became the biggest attraction of the southern French city of Arles since Vincent Van Gogh, who spent a year there in 1888.
She said she had met the artist when he came to her uncle’s store to buy paints, and remembered him as “ugly as sin” and having an “awful character.”
Calment used to talk of enjoying chocolate and port and would smoke an occasional cigarette before her health deteriorated.
INSERM said however that it could not “support any requests for exhumation” of Calment’s body, on which no autopsy was performed after her death.