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Korea succeeds in developing its first light aircraft for commercialization

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Published on Aug 8, 2017

KLA-100, 우리나라 경량항공기 상용화의 신호탄을 끊다

The nation's Leisure aviation is still very much in its infancy.
But playing catch-up is something Koreans have a knack for.
This year, a 2-seater light aircraft was developed.
80 percent of it made using home grown technology.
Oh Jung-hee sheds light on the technological breakthrough as well as the obstacles to clear for the industry to take flight. Flying high into the sky and looking down on the earth below -- it's a dream that many have fantasized about in the past.
Flight has come a long way since the Wright brothers first took to the skies over a hundred years ago,... and with rising incomes across the globe,... more and more people dream of flying their own airplanes as private pilots.

The United States and a few European countries are leading the light aircraft market.
The industry is just getting started in Korea; though the country exports its T-50 supersonic jet, one of the world's few trainer jets,... it hadn't produced any aircraft for personal use.
But, this year... a two-seater light aircraft was fully developed for the first time in Korea... and is now having test flights. "It's been a long, seven-year journey for Korean researchers, firms and the government to develop this aircraft, the KLA-100. The plane is already drawing lots of attention... due to its cutting-edge technology and relatively low price."

The aircraft can fly at maximum speed of 245 kilometers per hour... for up to 6 hours.
Its body is made of a light carbon composite... and the plane is equipped with an automatic flight control system and digitalized instrument panel,... all made with home-grown Korean technology.
There's also a parachute for safe landing in emergencies.
The plane will set you back around 130-thousand U.S. dollars,... relatively cheap, with similar aircraft costing around 160-thousand dollars. "Up to 80-percent of the plane's technology is purely Korean technology... mainly used for the control system, landing gears and hardware. Of course there are other aircraft with similar strengths as ours in the market already, but they're expensive. Ours has a strong price competitiveness."

Usually it's just ordinary people with licenses who want to enjoy leisure sports or personal travelling... that fly light aircraft.
Pilot Lee Yoon-sang says the aircraft is very sophisticated and agile,... easy to learn for beginners. "Before I came to join this project, I flew Cessna 172 and small planes like Eurostar. But compared to those airplanes, this plane is very easy to fly -- that means, easy to learn. It's very good, especially for the beginners."

KLA-100 was developed to satisfy rising demand in Korea... as well as to be sold overseas -- mainly to China and Southeast Asia... and ultimately to America and Europe.
The aircraft is expected to boost the local economy by over 10-million U.S. dollars and create 2,000 jobs.
Its development is not only significant in that it's Korea's very first commercialized plane... but also in that it will enable the development of other fourth industrial revolution technologies. "KLA-100 can serve as a test-bed for many technologies Korea wants to develop... like electric planes or unmanned aircraft. This is very important because if we buy and use planes from other countries, it's difficult to test new technologies as we don't have much data on the plane itself."

Since 2014, the Korean government is carrying out projects to stimulate the leisure aviation industry... and regional governments are establishing airstrips.
The country hopes to expand its aviation technology to ultimately produce larger airplanes in the future. "Korea's technology was a bit too weak to produce large airplanes, so we chose to start with light aircraft,... the entry barrier of which is relatively lower. Now with the KLA-100, the basic infrastructure is set up... to finally develop 50-seater airplanes in the future."

The creation of the KLA-100 is the culmination of what many in the industry have long dreamed of.
But at the same time, it's only the start of a new breakthrough in Korea's aviation industry... and the beginning of another journey to develop aircraft using 100-percent Korean technology.
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.

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