Chinese Pilots Will Learn To Fly A King Air 350 In Smyrna, TN
With MTSU’s nationally recognized aerospace program as a focal point, five groups announced the establishment of an agreement in principle January 23 to work together to help train Chinese pilots on their new Beechcraft King Air 350 Extended Range airplane currently housed in Smyrna, TN. Along with state Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, officials from MTSU, the Civil Aviation Authority in China, China-based Flying Dragon General Aviation Co. Ltd., Franklin, Tenn.-based PacUS LLC and Smyrna-based Corporate Flight Management announced the agreement during a meeting in the new Student Union Building.
Civil Aviation Authority in China officials discussed their interest in helping MTSU and Corporate Flight Management gain approval for training pilots on the new plane. “We’re now in a position to provide training expertise and the support they will need,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, making reference to the Chinese civil aviation authority. “… We are ready to go with this initiative. One of our goals is partnerships with business and industry. The aviation industry in China is about to explode. FedEx and UPS are just waiting for this.”
Mike Vaughn, president of PacUS LLC, orchestrated all parties coming together on the agreement. “Today, the success is realized,” Vaughn said, sharing that it all began two years ago when MTSU held a general aviation conference with the China National Aerospace University (Beihang University) at the MTSU’s flight center at Murfreesboro Airport. Since then, our business has grown. We are comfortable doing business with China as Tennesseans. Trade is part of our heritage and we are proud to represent our state through commerce. Today is a milestone for us and we look forward to more sales and visits from China in the future.”
The Beechcraft King Air will be based in Qinghai, in the foothills of the Tibetan Plateau. The airplane will fly with a rear-tail, boom-mounted magnetometer used for geophysical and geochemical exploration in the Tibetan Plateau. Valued at more than $10 million, the U.S. export deal was arranged by the Franklin, Tenn.-based international business management company, PacUS LLC, and its Hong Kong affiliate, CFM China Ltd. Vaughn added that wheels will be turning in all the application processes “in the next 30 days or so.”
Speaking through interpreter Jenny Wei, an MTSU aerospace graduate student who interns for Corporate Flight Management and PacUS and who will graduate in May, Chinese team leader Renhao Zhang said he “is excited to be here for the acceptance of the aircraft (King Air),” and “glad to see the cooperation” between all parties. Zhang represented the Civil Aviation Authority in China Northeast Division. He was joined by fellow CAAC Northeast Division associates Bo Liang and Bin Yang, and Guowei Wang of China Flying Dragon during both today’s announcement and their week-long visit to Middle Tennessee.
Ketron, representing Gov. Bill Haslam, spoke of how this alliance means “the opening of doors and creation of jobs, helping the economy.”
Dr. Ron Ferrara, interim chair of the MTSU aerospace department, said students would benefit from “more exposure to international students and it might open opportunities for them overseas.”
The airplane is currently housed at Corporate Flight Management’s hangar at the Smyrna Airport. Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China also is interested in purchasing maintenance services. Negotiations for selling the planes began in 2011 when Chinese Aero Geophysical Survey Remote officials visited Tennessee. The plane, which is the first of its type in China, will be delivered to Harbin, China, for their Aero Geophysical Survey Remote Sensing Center for Land and Resources, a division of China’s Ministry of Natural Resources. Company officials are in Rutherford County for the final on-site inspection before the plane is shipped to China.
(King Air 350 pictured in file photo)