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Amateur Pilot Gets His Wings Clipped
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He had never received any flight training, but that did not stop Li Xianfeng from building his own aircraft and flying it into the sky.

Unfortunately, gravity had other plans for China's leading amateur birdman.

From his hospital bed, Li recently recalled the feeling of hovering 50 meters above the ground before his microlight-style aircraft ploughed into a field north of Beijing on Monday. The flight lasted two minutes.

The 30-year-old would-be pilot will remain in hospital for at least a month, nursing a broken right leg and cut up chin. But his optimism is intact - he considers the flight partly successful.

"Luckily the engine wasn't damaged. I'll continue flying until I can make a perfect landing," said Li.

The remains of the shattered plane will be taken from the field in Tongzhou District, a popular spot for private pilots, back to his home in the city, where he designed and built it and its two predecessors.

Much to his wife's consternation, Li spent 30,000 yuan (about US$3,800) on the aluminum-framed aircraft. It measures 6.5 meters long, has a wingspan of 9.2 meters and is powered by a special engine.

Li's previous two efforts - the first made of wood, the second of iron - failed to get off the ground.
The amateur pilot's friends described the flight as a success, but Li still sees room for improvement. Sun Wenjun, who helped Li build the aircraft, said there was nothing wrong with their machine.

"The only problem is that Li has no flying experience," Sun said.

(Xinhua News Agency April 12, 2007)

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