Li Jingchun, a farmer in China has built what amounts to an art installation or perhaps a plaything, a tribute to his love of airplanes. It's something that he's clearly been inspired to create. It's fun to look at and he has every right to be proud of it, but the media coverage is strange.
Not strange that it's covered at all. I'm assuming the story originated in the PRC, a local man does cool thing story. The same photos and pretty much the same story have appeared in other countries' press. There's nothing wrong with the news featuring a person pursuing an unusual hobby, it's just that the media seems to be unquestioningly accepting that the man built an airplane. An airplane is an aircraft that generates lift by airflow over surfaces that remain fixed while in flight. Look at the picture. Is the media humouring him, or do they really think an engine would solve the issues with this "aircraft"?
It's made of recycled iron plates. There is no camber to the wings or stabilizer. There are no control surfaces or provisions to attach any. The wing surface area is tiny. The propeller is clearly ornamental. Am I just being a spoilsport? I would love to play in Li Jingchun's creation with him. I think it's marvellous. But why does this bother me? There are two reasons.
One is scientific literacy. I'm scared that the people who wrote edited and approved these stories for publication can't tell that's a creative, fun structure inspired by airplane form, and not an airplane. I'm scared that readers depending on media for information will take it at face value that the structure in question is an airplane, thereby discounting the skill and calculation that goes into actually designing and constructing airplanes. Lack of respect for knowledge, skill and engineering leads to lack of willingness to fund education, research and safety.
And the other is that there are people who really do design and build airplanes in their back yards, a project as different from Li Jingchun's as writing a story in Chinese is from creating faux-Chinese writing wallpaper. Many homebuilt aircraft builders don't have access to the education and research that I just whined about in the previous paragraph, but function is inspiring form.
I don't have this guy's name, or a picture of anything other than his crotch, and his creation isn't an airplane either. It's a freaking gyrocopter. If you think the footage bluescreeened, there's more here, along with someone else in a homebuilt helicopter.
Yang Weiming built his from a kit, and the test flight was reportedly his first solo. Here's video of the flight. While the Gizmodo article suggests that the gyrocopter pilot avoided showing his face because he was doing something frowned on by authorities, the Chinese article implies that the government is quite proud of this activity and puts no restrictions at all on experimental aircraft.