The Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) has returned to building its own planes almost a century after it abandoned the aerospace industry with a new project that should see a Mexican-made military aircraft in the sky next year.
Since 2015 a team has been working on the development of three aircraft that will be used in the basic training of air force cadets. At least one of them is expected to be ready to take flight by September 2018.
An initial investment of 115 million pesos (US $6.5 million) was made to develop the trainers in a program called Proyecto Azteca but in the longer term there are plans to build fighter aircraft.
The new planes will be based in Zapopan, Jalisco, where the pilot training facility School of the Air is located. Development of the aircraft restores an industry that was lost for the best part of a century.
One hundred years ago, while both World War I and the Mexican Revolution were raging, aircrafts were built in the national aviation workshops in Balbuena, now a part of Mexico City. Engineer Juan Villasana López also developed the Anáhuac propeller that was subsequently patented and exported around the world.
But production gradually declined and in 1924, operations came to an end.
In an interview with the newspaper Milenio, the deputy director of the military aeronautical industry at Sedena said the government’s decision to once again manufacture planes will strengthen the national aerospace industry, the air force and research centers.
“. . . in the years 1915, 1916 and 1917, mainly, Mexico built its own aircraft. From the fuselage, propellers [and] engines, since then the country has had the capacity,” General Julián Corona Rincón explained.
“It’s about resuming these projects that we once carried out, [a time] when we became part of the development of the international aeronautical industry . . . .”
Corona said the design phase has progressed as expected and that the manufacturing stage will soon begin. A team of 52 people is working on the project.
Air force colonel Héctor Cerón Díaz explained that the planes are designed specifically to teach new cadets how to fly and that their stability and capacity to endure rough landings are priorities.
“. . . [It’s] an aircraft that will be used by first-year cadets . . . it’s going to be a robust aircraft . . . .” he said.
The Azteca 1 will have a single, four-cylinder, 100-horsepower engine, a 700-kilogram fuselage made from carbon fiber, glass and epoxy and it will be capable of reaching speeds of up to 140 knots or almost 260 kilometers per hour.
General Corona says that it will also bring a renewed sense of pride in Mexican aviation.
“Seeing these aircraft flying over Mexican air space, people will realize what we are capable of doing.”
Source: Milenio (sp)