Fear of the Chinese — the Red Chinese!! J-20s!! aircraft carriers!! — is all the rage in D.C. these days.
So this piece from the Washington Times is kinda interesting. The reporter points out how the Air Force Academy purchased 25 T-53A trainers from Cirrus Aircraft. You know Cirrus: They crank out light-sport aircraft from their headquarters in Minnesota. They’re as American as apple pie, right?
Except one detail: Cirrus is now owned by The China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Company, a subsidiary of the China Aviation Industry Corporation, which is owned by the Chinese government. Or the Communist Party of China, if that’s the way you want to look at these things.
From the Times article: “Only days after the purchase [of Cirrus]was completed, the new Chinese owners received the aircraft order from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece newspaper Peoples Daily on Tuesday called the transaction ‘revolutionary’ because it marked the first time the U.S. Air Force ordered an entire set of aircraft from China for military training equipment.”
But not so fast, writes the Atlantic’s James Fallows, himself a pilot. Here’s his take: “I think the technical response here is: Give me a break! The airplanes the Air Force is ordering ‘from China’ actually spend the entirety of their production cycle in Duluth, Minnesota and Grand Forks, North Dakota. And what the Air Force is getting ‘from the Chinese’ is a less sophisticated model of the kind of airplane that I flew earlier this week to Louisville, KY, and back (from DC), and that over the past decade has been sold all around the world to eager customers, including in China. It’s a great plane, and I feel so lucky to fly one. But it poses exactly as much threat to national security as if Audis were suddenly being made and sold in China (oops, wait a minute – they are!).”
Thanks for the story on the Cirrus SR20 purchase by AFA. I was a cadet there, class of 67. I resigned my appointment (lost my “motivation”) mostly because there was no active flying program then for cadets. This is a vital part for so many guys who work so hard to get in in the first place…not to have a flying class seemed then, as it does now, to be a sad commentary on how even the most logical things don’t always happen.
By the way, Cirrus is not a light sport aircraft, but a regular General Aviation plane. Light sport category, as I report on for Plane & Pilot magazine as it’s LSA editor, are restricted in weight to 1320 lbs., speed to 120 knots max straight and level speed, and stall no greater than 45 knots, no flaps.
Thought your readers might want to know that the Cirrus doesn’t meet those specs by a long shot…which makes it a much better trainer for cadets as it’s got wonderful performance and is a relatively advanced GA aircraft.