from The Chinese of Oakland: Unsung Builders,
by Eve Armentrout Ma and Jeong Huei Ma
Collection of Oakland History Room/Oakland Public Library
Within two years of founding the company in 1908, Fong Yue constructed his first airplane and even manufactured his own motor. On his test flight, however, Fong Yue crashed his airplane into his own workshop which caught fire and burned to the ground.*
Undaunted, the aviation pioneer found space to build his second airplane which he launched above the Piedmont hills on September 21, 1909. This was the first airplane manufactured by an Oakland resident to fly in that area. Unfortunately, this airplane crashed as well after a twenty minute flight when the bolt holding the propeller shaft broke. Fong Yue later moved back to China where he went on to build at least one completely successful airplane. However, in 1912, while piloting, he was killed in an airplane crash in his homeland.
from Resourceful Chinese
by Ah-Tye, Howard
Collection of Oakland History Room/Oakland Public Library
There are two outstanding Chinese aviators I would not hesitate to commend: Fong Joe Guey and Alfred Lai.
Fong Joe Guey was born in 1882 in the Yangping district of Kwangtung Province. He immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 12. In later years he worked for awhile in San Francisco and attended evening classes to study English. He then moved to the eastern part of Califronai from 1898 to 1906. During this periond, he developed an interest in machinery and electircal technology, spending his evenings home carrying on experiments to satisfy his curiosity. He designed and constructed electric motors and set up a wireless telegraph set in his own room. He also became intrigued with the idea of building airplanes.
In 1906, he moved back to the Bay Area and in 1907, formed a company in Oakland to design and construct airplanes. BY April 1908, he managed to build his first plane, but it failed on its first test flight. To add to his dilemma his workshop caught on fire and burned to the ground. Undaunted, he built a second plane. He tested it is September 1909, above the Oakland hills and was able to fly it for 20 minutess, until the belt holding the propeller broke and the plane crashed. Fong Guey continued building planes, and in 1911, his plane stayed in the ari for 40 minutes and landed without a mishap. The Chinese government heard of his talent (for after all, this wa only a few years after the Wright brothers had made thier famou=s Kittyhawk flight) and persuaded Fong to come to China help organize a national air force. He died in 1912 in a plane crash while demonstrating his flying technique.
Feng Ru: First Chinese Airplane Engineer and Pilot
For the benefit of my visitors who don't read German, including me, I have translated the text with the aid of the BabelFish program on the AltaVista site. The machine-translated story is a little awkward, but ever so much better than nothing. I have tried to make it a little more readable.
" A: OK ONE, dear listener inside and listener, cordial welcome with our?Chinesischen records?.
B: Yes, Lu Ming, which have you today for our listeners prepared?
A: If listener loves, how you know, the first airplane of the world was built by the American WRIGHT brothers.
B: I know also. In 1903 the WRIGHT brothers built the first powered plane in the USA which actually flew.
A: Aha, you knows itself thus out. And today we will present to our listeners, Feng Ru, the first airplane engineer and pilot in China.
B: Yes? Well then tell our listeners nevertheless times more about this Chinese aviation pioneer.
A: OK ONE. Feng Ru was born on 15 December 1883 in Kreis Enping. At 12 years of age, he went to live with relatives in the USA. There he learned an occupation and became a good technician .
B: But now he had the idea build an airplane, not in the USA where he lived, but in China, where he had originated?
A: In December 1903, when the WRIGHT brothers' airplane had flown as the first powered plane of the world, the immigrant Feng Ru was inspired. The year 1904 brought then a further historical event? the Japanese-Russian war in northeast China. Feng Ru participated in the happening in China in the USA, and he was conscious itself of the military meaning of the new flight apparatuses. He said: "Had we had thousands of airplanes at the Chinese border, the foreign forces would have surely been deterred." Thus he decided to dedicate himself to the development of aviation in China.
B: Thus did he begin to build an airplane?
A: Yes, with financial support from other Chinese immigrants in the USA, he began to build an airplane in 1906. In 1907, in Oakland, a city east of San Francisco, in spite of all kinds of difficulties, he constructed the Guangdong Airplane Factory. By 1909 he had built an aeroplane, the first which had been designed and built by a Chinese. He called it "Feng Ru No. 1".
B: Well ask!
A: And on September 21, 1909, Feng Ru completed the first test flight from a hill in the proximity of Oakland , which was witnessed by some American journalists as well as three of his coworkers. Feng Ru reached a height of 4.5 meters with his airplane, and flew some 800 meters along the hill. Thus, he was the first Chinese who had built and flown an airworthy airplane. To that extent, he can be considered to be a pioneer of Chinese aviation, even though the event occurred in California. But was Feng really Chinese or not?
B: Well, was it a completely successful test flight for that time of the year 1909?
A: Unfortunately not completely. After approximately 20 minutes, the flight came to a sudden end when the propeller failed and the aeroplane fell to earth from a small height. Fortunately, Feng Ru got off with only a bad scare and was not hurt.
B: Fortunately, one can only say there.
A: Yes. And although the "Feng Ru No. 1" airplane was damaged during the first test flight, it can be proven that it flew, and the Chinese immigrants in the USA were legitimately very proud. They continued to support Feng Ru's airplane endeavors, and so he went to Ru NR in January 1911 with his new airplane"Feng. 2" in Oakland to the start. On January 18, Feng Ru completed the test flight of Feng No. 2. He covered a distance of some 12 meters in a flight which lasted four minutes. It was a total success. And, do you know Qiu Jing, who was also there in Oakland at the time of the test flight? Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the prominent revolutionary who at the time was in the USA and had heard of the flights of the Chinese Feng Ru in Oakland. When he learned more of the successful test flights, Sun Yat Sen commended the flight pioneer Feng Ru's courage and encouraged him to dedicate himself to aviation in China.
B: And did Feng Ru do that?
A: He did. In February 1911, Feng Ru made his way to China from Oakland, taking with him two airplanes. He wanted to develop aviation in China.
B: Correct, in 1911 the monarchy in China had fallen by a revolution led by Sun Yat Sen.
A: Exactly. The revolution caused the downfall of the Qing dynasty in October, 1911. Feng Ru participated in it and was appointed Captain of the Air Force by the revolutionary government of the Guangdong province. In March 1912, he built his first airplane in China, the very first airplane to be manufactured in China. At that time, the country as a whole acknowleged that Feng Ru had become the pioneer of Chinese aviation. Later, he organized aviation shows on several occasions in China in order to popularize aviation among the Chinese. On August 25, 1912, at one of the shows in Guangzhou, Feng Ru crashed and died. He was only 29 years of age..
B: A tragic and a much too early end to a promising career.
A: Yes, but the contribution of Feng Ru to the development of aviation in China will never be forgotten. After his death a monument for him was erected in Guangdong. And 1985 built in its homeland Enping one intend-resounds for Feng Ru.
B: OK ONE, dear listeners, so much for Feng Ru, the first Chinese airplane engineer and pilot and developer of aviation in China."
by Howard Ah-Tye
Cloth: 208 pages, Historical Photos
List Price: $20.00 +$2.50 shipping
Publisher: Matai Press, San Jose, June, 1999
"A history of Chinese innovations, contributions, and assistance in the development of Oakland and surrounding communities of California and their fortitude to survive the prejudices and legislation denying them "basic rights" during the Gold Rush, the Quake of 1906, and World War I & II."
Chinese Presbyterian Church (CPC) of Oakland
265 - 8th Street
Oakland, California 94607
(510) 763-9129 Fax