Patrick Power: East meets West in certification criteria
PATRICK Power has long been obsessed with aviation.
In the past 35 years, he has been a pilot in the United States Navy, a test flight pilot and an official with the US Federal Aviation Administration.
When he heard that China was developing its own domestic passenger aircraft, he was enthusiastic to join the team at the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC).
"New aircraft come out only every 15 years or so," Power said. "This is an interesting and exciting time for China."
Power, 57, is the senior advisor with the airworthiness management department at COMAC, where he consults on aircraft certification and the flight test programs.
Power has the bearing of a military man. He qualified as a carrier pilot on the USS Lexington aircraft carrier. He is terse of speech and seldom smiles, but the excitement is palpable when he talks about aviation.
"These new aircraft mean a lot of interesting work, especially with a new company and such a brilliant corps of young engineers," he said.
Before coming to Shanghai, Power was a flight test manager with the US FAA. He had also served as a consultant to governments in Indonesia and Greece, where he met his wife Maria.
In 2007, the FAA opened its first Chinese office in Shanghai, and Power became its manager in charge of mentoring his Chinese counterparts in aircraft certification processes. He was subsequently promoted to chief representative of the FAA in China at the US Embassy in Beijing.
In 2013, when Power was due to return to the US, COMAC asked him to stay and work with the Chinese project.
The most attractive part of China's domestic aircraft program, he said, is the absence of design restrictions for the cockpit. At aircraft giants like Boeing and Airbus, very fewer changes are made on new airplanes due to the design history of these manufacturers.
"The ARJ21 and the C919 will be good airplanes that will be competitive in the future," Power said.
Mentoring the development of young Chinese engineers has also been a rewarding part of his job, Power said.
"It is different from my previous jobs, where I worked with experienced people," he said, adding that he takes a certain pride in helping young up-and-comers develop their skills.
He is now helping bridge discussions between the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the US FAA. They are focused on expanding bilateral agreements on aircraft certification.
He and his wife seem happy living in Shanghai. His wife is studying for a master's degree in psychology through a US university online. How long will he be staying here? Well, at least until the maiden flight of the C919, he said.