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Yue, Fong / Ru, Feng
Born on 15 December 1882 in the Yanping district of Kwangtung province, Fong Yue (or the now more accepted spelling of his name, Feng Ru, also seen as Fung Joe Guey and Feng Ru) came to the United States at the age of twelve, living and working in various parts of California and attended evening classes to study English before trying to settle in San Francisco in 1906. The earthquake spoiled his plan and sent him fleeing to Oakland. He developed an interest in machinery and electrical 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 was always interested in machinery, and one of the first things he did after arriving in Oakland was to organize an airplane manufacturing company, only a few years after the Wright Brothers' Kitty Hawk flight.
1904 brought 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.
Fong Yu in his Machine Shop, circa 1907
Within two years of founding the company in 1908, Fong Yue constructed his first airplane and even manufactured his own motor.
On its test flight the first one crashed into his own workshop, starting a fire that burned it to the ground. Assumably the airplane went with it, but Yue was undaunted, and built a second ship that he flew from the Piedmont Hills on 21 September 1909, as reported by Associated Press. After 20 minutes a bolt on its propeller shaft broke and it, too, crashed, and its creator was thrown out, but escaped injury. He returned to China in 1911 with his mechanic and two Curtiss planes, and built China's first aircraft. Yue was killed in a crash there in 1912, but his legend is perpetuated by a play, "Dragonwings," last presented, as known, in San Francisco 1992.
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 continued building planes, and in 1911, his plane stayed in the air for 40 minutes and landed without a mishap.
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 and help organize a national air force.
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.
A revolution led by Sun Yat Sen caused the downfall of the Qing dynasty monarchy in China 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.
The contribution of Feng Ru to the development of aviation in China is not forgotten. After his death a monument for him was erected in Guangdong.
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