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Model Superjet Crashes in Test Flight

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Nov 25, 2001
WOOMERA, South Australia (July 14) - A test launch of what Japanese scientists hope will be the next generation of supersonic jet failed spectacularly on Sunday in the Australian desert.

The superjet, a 1:10 scale model of a plane that would be able to fly twice as fast as the Concorde, dived then exploded on the ground seconds after takeoff at a long-abandoned British rocket testing range in South Australia, a Reuters photographer on the scene said.

"It spiraled in the sky and then crashed into the ground in flames," photographer Mark Baker said.

No one was hurt in the trial.

Startled kangaroos hopped by as the aircraft burned off on the ground on a bright day.

"Of course there's a little disappointment. However this is the first step for the verification of our experimental technology so that we can have another good, successful launch," Japanese scientist Kimio Sakata told reporters after the crash.

The rocket-propelled 38-foot model piggybacked on a 33-foot rocket, and was supposed to detach from the booster 11 miles above the earth and glide back down at over twice the speed of sound.

Instead the aircraft separated from the rocket during the launch, Japan's government-funded National Aerospace Laboratory, which sponsored the test, said in a statement.


Sakata said the team would have to investigate the technology and propulsion systems to figure out why the rocket separated early.

"We have to redesign, remanufacture some of the components of the equipment. So after that we'd like to have another launch," he said.

After five years of work on the project, scientists had spent the last six months preparing to launch the model of a jet that could one day carry three times as many people and planned three more firings of the NEXST-1.

They foresee flights with twice the 6,000-mile range and half the noise of the Anglo-French Concorde which could take passengers from Japan to the U.S. West coast in four hours at a business class fare.

The project, involving Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nissan Motor Corp, aims to cut the noise of supersonic flights to the rumble of a Boeing 747 so the superjet can fly anywhere.

"The positive thing is that it was run professionally by both organizations, ARDU and the Japanese, and we have got a huge amount of data to assist us for the investigation," said Peter Nikoloff, safety operations liaison officer for Australia's Aircraft Research and Development Unit supporting the trial.

The test was originally scheduled for Thursday but had to be postponed because of bad wind conditions.

07/14/02 02:26 ET
No ones ever said that the Japanesse don't do everything specaturaly, including crashing. :)

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