University alumnus flies into Champaign on China’s first solo flight around the world

Illustration by Michelle Tam | The Daily Illini

Illustration by Michelle Tam | The Daily Illini

By Joseph Longo, Assistant News Editor

China is attempting its first solo flight around the world and in the cockpit is University alumnus Dr. Bo Zhang.  On Wednesday, Aug. 17, Zhang flew into Willard Airport in a propeller-driven aircraft.

Zhang departed Beijing on Aug. 7 and will travel through seven countries. Willard Airport is one of 30 stops along the 25,000 mile journey.

Zhang prioritized the first-ever flight around the Silk Road in China. The Silk Road is an ancient network of trade routes connecting Asia to Europe and Africa. In recent years, China has reincarnated the famed route through the One Belt, One Road Initiative connecting modern-day European and Asian economies.

“In my plan I will retrace the ancient Silk Road to fly over the five central Asian countries,” Zhang said. “In that way I can both experience the shock from the ancient civilization and witness the development and the changes along the new Silk Road.”

2016 has been a year of milestones in Chinese aviation. In June, China flew its first Chinese-built passenger jet, the Comac ARJ-21, from central China to Shanghai, and now Zhang’s trip is China’s first attempt at a solo flight around the world. The task has previously been completed more than 350 times.

Since flying to Champaign, Zhang has made stops at Washington D.C., the Key West, Florida, Charleston, South Carolina, Manassas, Virginia and Farmingdale, New York.

Zhang received both his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural engineering from the University. He is also a former Alumni Association board member.

To stay updated on Zhang’s journey, visit Aviation News.

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