The worlds’ first hybrid aircraft — Mega Express CH-3

Written by Staff Writer

An extraordinary new aircraft could mark a new era for international aviation: two torn fuselages of the Air France Concorde, then the aircraft the world remembers.

But instead of setting off for Paris as a new take on air travel, the pieces of airliners currently sit in the desert of southeast Taiwan.

The pilots’ seats on the front section of the two banged together to form wing tips, while the first and business class cabin sections came from separate Boeing 747s — the price of fitting them inside the right plane.

A zero-emission, fuel-efficient aircraft, Taiwan’s new Mega Express CH-3 was “all about politics,” said former Sky Island Aviation chief executive officer Peter Eng.

“The government chose Mega Air to build it. They wanted the aircraft to help develop the aviation industry in Taiwan,” he told CNN in June.

Eng also oversaw the construction of the first US-built airliner in 40 years, the ANA Mu-2 , in 1988.

CN Cheng, founder of Sky Island Aviation, checks out a prototype of the Mega Express CH-3. Courtesy Sky Island Aviation

Making history

Before many nations got started on the space race, Taiwan was already making headlines for groundbreaking aerospace engineering.

The first Chinese man to leave the mainland was Jehanne Williams, who built his own plane in 1959 to join an organized secret war effort in the Taiwan Strait.

Several men are said to have used various aircraft to get past the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. China got its first working aircraft with the H.A. Chung, but it failed to complete tests before it was destroyed by an American plane in 1967.

Sky Island Aviation , one of the earliest aerospace companies in the United States, was founded in 1967. Courtesy Sky Island Aviation

On April 28, 1971, then chairman of Taiwan’s General Elections Commission, Chang Tai-Chu, built Taiwan’s first airplane.

Known as the MAPOS, it was developed in China as a precursor to Taiwan’s own fleet. But after it failed to pass testing in China, the Air Force cut it down to small parts in Taiwan in 1975.

In 1992, the H.A. Chung was sold to Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation for $16 million . That year, the Ministry of Transportation built the APJ Choushou , China’s second first-generation (CGI) aircraft.

But a decade later, Taiwan Aircraft Limited (TAL) bought the H.A. Chung in 1993 with the stated aim of building an “Aeromexico:plus” in Taipei. That plan was put on hold in 1995 after the collapse of Taiwan’s economy.

Then, in 1996, APJ Chang was sold to Taiwan Aircraft Limited, known as AVIC (Advanced Aerospace Group), the state-owned aircraft manufacturing conglomerate established by Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui in 2000.

Armed with Taiwan’s only license to operate in the world, APJ Chang was conceived as an untraditional, all-electric, zero-emission aircraft with modular components and an all-electric flight mechanism that would be further refined over the coming years.

By 1999, more than 30 engineers were part of the APJ Chang team , after which the aircraft was launched.

In 2003, APJ Chang successfully completed a flight test of its hybrid electric and generator technology. While APJ Chang never made it to commercial flight, AVIC announced plans to revive the program in 2005.

In December 2010, CN Cheng, the founder of Hong Kong-based fast-growing aviation services company Mega Express, joined forces with AVIC to lease APJ Chang to Taiwan Airlines. That aircraft, developed with AVIC, had to be modified to comply with Taiwan’s stringent safety and security standards.

The APJ Chang being prepared for its maiden flight. Mega Express

Technically speaking, the CH-3 is Air China’s Concorde, circa 1999, and sits on the stage where the two damaged Concorde final assembly parts were to have been mounted for a passenger charter flight to France in 2018.

The demise of Concorde

But when discussions with Air France took an unexpected detour and the two were eventually canceled, the Concespionses brought their weight to bear on Mega Express and the CH-3 eventually collapsed from a number of technical and financial failings.

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