Zhang Xinyu (right) pilots a Y-12 aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean from Fortaleza, Brazil, to Playa, Cape Verde, along with Liang Hong, his wife. They wear oxygen masks to deal with altitude sickness. (Photo/China Daily)
A couple with a penchant for adventure has successfully flown over the Atlantic Ocean in a Chinese-made plane.
Zhang Xinyu, 40, and his wife Liang Hong, 38, took off from Fortaleza Airport in Brazil and successfully landed at Playa Airport in the Cape Verde Islands after nearly nine hours of flying on Sunday.
The 2,700-kilometer flight was the longest nonstop leg for the couple, who began their 80,000-kilometer round-the-world journey in a Y-12 aircraft at the beginning of the year.
"We had finished about one-third of the flight before arriving at Brazil," said Zhang, "and flying across the Atlantic is the greatest challenge of the whole trip."
It seemed an impossible task for the Y-12, which has a normal range of 1,340 km, less than half of the required distance.
"It means that the plane would probably fall into the ocean due to a fuel shortage or terrible weather," Zhang said.
Before starting their round-the-world flight, the plane had been completely upgraded.
The converter, exterior decoration and some internal objects had been replaced by two auxiliary fuel tanks with a capacity of 450 liters, which could increase its range from 1,340 km to about 2,000 km.
After arriving in Brazil, the couple improved fuel carrying capacity by adding a sac in the front of the fuselage as well as four gasoline cans and 20 kilograms of luggage in the back to balance the weight.
Furthermore, after repeatedly keeping an eye on climate data, they decided to set out last Saturday evening, when they believed they had the best conditions.
At 5:50 pm, after checking more than 100 items, the Y-12 rose into the air and rapidly reached a height of 4,500 meters, causing the couple serious altitude sickness.
Fortunately, the oxygen bottles they brought helped them ease the discomfort, and flying with the wind at their back increased their range by more than 800 kilometers.
"All the endeavors were made to complete a flight that no Chinese had tried before," said Zhang. "It might be easy for a passenger aircraft to fly 3,000 kilometers across the Atlantic Ocean, but it is unprecedented for a Y-12."
A decade ago, the couple had become billionaires thanks to their business, and decided to travel around the world for 10 years because of their interest in adventure.
They have driven through war-torn Somalia and the radiation-racked Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, as well as sailing in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
To prepare for the undertaking, the couple completed a six-month training session that taught them skills such as flying at night or in complex weather conditions, as well as plane maintenance.
The adventure will end in China in June after several stops in Southeast Asia, the couple said.
A show named On the Road, which recorded their flight, will be broadcast online and on TV at the end of April.
"We hope the show can help more young people know about flying, and we also hope they can know more about the world," Zhang said.