Name: Zhou Ximing
Title: President, Implant Aircraft Co., Ltd.
Hometown: Beijing, China
What's the story behind your career and your company?
Thirty years ago, I was in Harvard Medical School learning biomechanics, which became my profession. At that time, I read in some literature that humans need three horsepower to fly. So I thought, “three horsepower isn’t much.” During those next 30 years, I kept thinking and reading about this. Then, six years ago, I sold my company. By that time I was 65 years old, and I decided to use the money to do something great. For the past six years, I’ve been doing this project only.
What's the project and what are the challenges you're currently facing?
The RAC (Roofing AirCraft) is a very special project. It’s an ornithopter – a piloted aircraft with flapping wings.
Our challenge right now is that we need to fly outside. Right now, we’re only flying inside a big hall of basically 200 meters. It’s been difficult. For three years, we’ve been looking for a water surface for trial flying outside. I’ve traveled to many provinces to have business discussions with local governments. This weekend I will go to another three provinces – Jiangxi, Jiujing and Hubei – to visit some lakes. There’s a Chinese experimental aircraft, EHang 184 (editor's note: an aerial passenger drone), that has started trial flying in Nevada. The American government allows it.
What does the aircraft look like?
The wingspan is about 10 meters, and from tip to tail is about 6 meters. It’s piloted and full-sized. It’s a third category aircraft. The first one was the Wright Brothers in 1903, with the so-called fixed wings. Second was Sikorsky in 1939, with the helicopter. The third is me. Flapping wings – nobody has ever done this successfully, piloted and full-sized. It’s not a piece of cake. For three years I didn’t go home, and I spent a lot of money.
We can use it for single, private use. It’ll be a family vehicle. You won’t use an airport. To take off from roads or highways is impossible. It’s not very realistic. Our aircraft will take off from the roof of buildings. It doesn’t need a long distance for takeoff or landing.
What stage is the craft at now?
The day we have a surface, we can fly basically two kilometers. Not very high and not very fast – only about 72 kilometers per hour. I will be the first pilot. It’s a responsibility. If you design something, you need to fly it yourself.
The next step is we need to upgrade. I need more technical and experimental work. The Boeing 747 had 2,000 engineers working day and night. We have only 40 people for this project.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Best advice? Some advice has been negative. I don’t care. I go further and I go ahead. Not too many people knew about this project, but now it’s time to speak out because last weekend we had a successful IPO in Beijing.
Do you have a favorite book?
The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. He was the first Prime Minister of Singapore.
Why did you decide to join AmCham China?
To make friends! And to make partners – strategic partners, technique partners, business partners.