American test pilot Chuck Yeager achieved the world`s first supersonic flight on the Bell X-1 13,700 meters in the skies on Oct. 14, 1947. Test pilots try new prototype aircraft at great risk to their lives. Designers detect problems through test flights and reflect them in their design blueprints. In 1996, Koreas first test pilot Lee Jin-ho had his plane`s cockpit lid blown away in a test flight of a prototype KT-1. With amazing courage, he landed the plane and helped the designers resolve the problem.
The maiden test flight of Koreas first utility helicopter Surion was conducted at Korea Aerospace Industries Tuesday in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province. The helicopter`s name combines "suri" meaning eagle and "on" meaning perfection. An airplane is designed to fly forward in principle but the Surion can move sideways like a crab and backwards like a scorpion. It can also fly forward in zigzag form like a skier in a slalom competition. Domestic test pilot pioneers Yoon Byeong-gi and Lee Yeong-hun have demonstrated all of the Surions abilities and functions. The Surion can also hover at the height of Mount Baekdu (2,744 meters) to cover the country`s mountainous terrain.
The nation`s armed forces have about 700 helicopters, which exceeds that of its fighter jets and ranks eighth in the world in volume. All of the choppers are imported, however. Military helicopters are classified as utility choppers designed for carrying personnel and freight and as attack choppers for striking tanks. When its test flights are completed and mass production starts in 2012, the Surion will replace the 500MD and the UH-1. The new aircraft has been developed with technical assistance from Eurocopter, a French-German joint venture for helicopter manufacturing. Since the engine, the most critical part, has been developed domestically, the Surion will be made available for both export and use in the private sector.
The Korean military has the categories of large and small attack helicopters, and imports Apache choppers from the U.S. for the former and seeks to develop its own for the latter. Korean scientists and engineers express confidence of developing a large attack helicopter on par with the Apache in performance by improving the Surion. Experts say the focus should be on domestic development and production of a large attack helicopter to boost defense capability and pursue exports at low cost.
Editorial Writer Lee Jeong-hoon (email@example.com)