Arab Times

Japan’s first jet makes maiden test flight

Breakthrou­gh for Tokyo’s aviation industry


rNAGOYA, Japan, Nov 11, (AFP): Japan’s first passenger jet made its maiden test flight Wednesday, a landmark in a decade-long programme to launch the plane aimed at competing with Brazilian and Canadian rivals in the global market for smaller aircraft.

About half a century after the last Japanese-made commercial plane took to the skies, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), painted with dark blue, red and beige stripes, took off from Nagoya airport under clear skies for a 90-minute trip.

After being barred from developing aircraft following World War II, Japan — and its MRJ jet — is competing with other regional passenger jet manufactur­ers such as Brazil’s Embraer and Canada’s Bombardier.

Hiromichi Morimoto, president of Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp — a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries — voiced his delight and relief at the successful flight.

“We were able to see the beautiful fuselage of the MRJ taking off into the sunny autumn sky,” he told a press conference.

“The fact that I was able to see that with you, as someone who was involved in its developmen­t, there is no greater joy.” Its pilot also praised the jet. “The operation performanc­e of the MRJ was far better than expected,” Yoshiyuki Yasumura said, according to a Mitsubishi Aircraft release.

“We had a significan­tly comfortabl­e flight.”

The two-engine MRJ marks a new chapter for Japan’s aviation sector, which last built a commercial airliner in 1962 — the YS-11 turboprop that was discontinu­ed about a decade later.

The MRJ is approximat­ely 35-metres (115-feet) long, has a pointed nose and will seat about 80 passengers.

Mitsubishi Aircraft boasts that the fuel-efficient MRJ will offer more passenger comfort with lower operating costs, eyeing the booming regional jet sector.

Delivery China is also developing a similarsiz­ed homegrown regional passenger jet, the ARJ21. It had its first test flight in 2008 and the initial commercial delivery is reportedly expected by the end of the year.

Mitsubishi Heavy would not disclose how much of the aircraft consists of Japanese components, but it is powered by two next-generation engines developed by Pratt & Whitney of the United States.

The company said the US parts are key and have helped it slash operating costs by about 20 percent.

The maiden flight by the Japanese passenger jet stirred excitement at home.

“We very much welcome the success of the first flight as it is a new beginning for the Japanese aircraft industry,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

“We hope that developmen­t for deliv- ery of the first plane will go steadily and both public and private sectors will continue to work towards the success of this project.”

On the live streaming website for the flight, one user tweeted: “This is a great achievemen­t.”

Another excited user simply wrote: “Japan’s pride!”

Firms in Japan were banned from developing aircraft by US occupiers following the country’s defeat in World War II.

Mitsubishi Heavy, a military contractor, built Japan’s legendary “Zero” World War II fighter jet.

The country slowly started rebuilding its aviation industry in the 1950s, starting with carrying out repair work for the US military. It went on to expand its scope to start licensed production of US-developed aircraft for Japan’s military.

Japanese firms have also long supplied parts to plane manufactur­er Boeing.

Mitsubishi Heavy unveiled the jet in October last year and has received more than 400 orders.

It plans to make the first delivery to Japan’s All Nippon Airways in 2017.

Mitsubishi’s short-to-medium-haul regional jet was backed by the Japanese government and a consortium of major firms including Toyota.

Automaker Honda is also developing a small private jet in the United States, which was first unveiled in Japan earlier this year. BERLIN, Nov 11, (AFP): Lufthansa scrapped 930 more flights on Wednesday, grounding 100,000 passengers after a court allowed cabin staff to press on with a strike that is shaping up to be the worst in the German airline’s history.

The new flight cancellati­ons in and out of Germany’s biggest airport, Frankfurt, as well as hubs in Munich and Duesseldor­f, come after four days of stoppages that had already forced the airline to cancel 2,800 flights, leaving 300,000 passengers stranded.

The industrial action over a dispute with the UFO flight attendants union regarding cost cuts began on Friday with a pause on Sunday, and is set to go on until Friday.

Lufthansa had sought to challenge the legality of the industrial action through court injunction­s but lost a key bid after the labour court of Darmstadt, which has jurisdicti­on for Frankfurt and Munich airports, approved the strike.

The court dismissed the airline’s argument that the union’s reasons for striking were “too vague” and unjustifie­d under German labour law.

Ruling The UFO union welcomed the ruling on its website, calling for the strike to continue from 0300 GMT on Wednesday until 2300 GMT on Friday across all flights at Frankfurt, Munich and Duesseldor­f airports.

Lufthansa in a statement said it stood by its position that “the reasons for the strike were not defined clearly enough” and said it will decide its “next steps” on Wednesday.

The setback came after an earlier symbolic victory for the airline dealt by another court which ruled that the strike affecting Duesseldor­f airport was illegal — but that judgement was effectivel­y useless as it was limited to Tuesday only and came hours after flights had been cancelled.

The same court is due to issue later Wednesday a ruling for the remaining period of the strike.

The airline has been locked in a battle that erupted nearly two years ago with cabin crew over early retirement provisions which the union wants unchanged.

But Lufthansa argues that the system is too expensive in the face of cut-throat competitio­n from low-cost operators such as Ryanair and Easyjet.

Late Monday, the airline presented a new offer to the union, with improved bonuses and retirement provisions, but UFO called it unacceptab­le.

This is the first time that cabin staff have staged walkouts in the long-running dispute, which does not affect Lufthansa’s subsidiari­es Germanwing­s, Eurowings, Lufthansa CityLine, SWISS, Austrian Airlines, Air Dolomiti and Brussels Airlines.

It is also separate from another tussle between management and pilots over the company’s plans to change the early retirement arrangemen­ts for pilots.

Lufthansa wants to scrap an arrangemen­t under which pilots can retire at 55 and receive up to 60 percent of their pay until they reach the statutory retirement age of 65.

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