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Thu, Feb 19, 2004

Farmer Builds Helo; Needs Permit To Fly

Nevermind The Aircraft Barely Leaves Ground

Americans certainly don't own a monopoly on bureaucratic battles with their aviation agency. Just ask a Vietnamese farmer that hopes to fly his own invention but find himself fighting the system instead.

With directions from the Internet and an old Russian truck motor, the farmer fulfilled his dream of making his own helicopter. The job took two friends, seven years and $30,000. Now, military officials say he can't fly it, because he didn't get approval to build it. The result: They confiscated the makeshift copter.

"It's my hobby," farmer Le Van Danh told the Associated Press complained by telephone Monday from his hometown of Tay Ninh, in Vietnam's southwest. "I will do whatever I can, including going to the prime minister, to get the permission."

Danh admits the helicopter is still a work in progress, as it only hovers about 18 inches off the ground. "We are in the process of a fifth test of moving forward and backward, left and right," Danh said.

Getting approval to keep working on the chopper won't be easy. No Vietnamese individual has ever been granted a government license to build an aircraft, said Le Cong Tinh, director of the Air Transport Safety division of the country's Civil Aviation Administration.

Nevertheless, the farmer said he won't give up, vowing to sell his house or 25 acres of land if that's what it takes to get the license. "If I cannot do it, my children or my grandchildren will do it," he said.



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