Friday, September 21, 2012

U.S. launches test flights of Osprey aircraft in Japan despite safety fears

IWAKUNI (Kyodo) -- U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft flew over Japan for the first time on Friday in test flights amid persistent safety concerns among local people, following the Japanese government's announcement Wednesday that they are safe to fly.

The first two gray-painted Ospreys took off from the Marines' Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture one after the other in the morning. Both returned to the base by noon, without noticeable trouble. Four more conducted test flights in the afternoon.

The first two were seen flying in cruise mode with their twin rotors tilted forward over Shimonoseki in the prefecture.

After test flights around the Iwakuni base, the Marines plan to begin full operation of the Ospreys, which can take off and land like a helicopter and cruise like a fixed-wing airplane, in October at the Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture.

Many people in Okinawa still oppose the deployment at the Futenma base, located in a crowded residential area, after two crashes of the aircraft overseas earlier this year. Read More