All Nippon Airways (ANA) unveils Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” painted like Star Wars’ droid R2-D2

Star Wars characters R2-D2 and C-3P0 pose with  All

USA Today:

Star Wars theme music played and Storm Troopers held guard as the hangar doors began to open. Within moments, a Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” painted with likeness of R2-D2 emerged to a cheering crowd at Boeing’s wide-body assembly line facility in Everett, Wash.

The airplane featuring images of the loyal droid from the Star Wars franchise belongs to Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) and will begin flying paying passengers Oct. 18. The jet’s first revenue flight is scheduled for a run between Tokyo‘s Haneda Airport to Vancouver, Canada.

Saturday’s unveiling had been eagerly anticipated by both aviation and Star Warsenthusiasts since plans for the R2-D2-themed Dreamliner were first announced in April. The jet will boast one of the world’s most interesting airline paint schemes when it begins flying next month. But it will soon get company, becoming one of three ANA aircraft to be painted in a Stars Wars theme.

One of the other two designs will feature BB-8, a new character to be introduced in the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. BB-8’s likeness will grace one of ANA’s Boeing 777-300ER widebody planes. The other new design – on a Boeing 767-300 – will feature both BB-8 and R2-D2. They’re expected to begin flying in 2016.

An rendering showing all three of ANA's Star Wars-themed

Seven cool things set to happen in Japan during 2015

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that you should always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. If there’re two things we know, though, the second is that you’ll never get anywhere in life being fixated on the past. So while 2014 was a pretty good year for us, we’re already looking to the year ahead, which is already promising seven cool happenings for Japan in 2015.

1. Opening of the new Shinkansen line

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Japan may have a reasonably priced overnight bus network and well-maintained highways, but there’s no denying that the quickest and most convenient way to get around the country is the Shinkansen. Currently, you can travel by bullet train from Tokyo to Nagano, but the new Hokuriku Line will allow travelers to extend their Shinkansen trips from Nagano all the way to coastal Kanazawa. So starting March 14, you’ll be able to zip on over to the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture in record time to enjoy its historic Kenrokuen Garden, delicious seafood, and, provided you’ve still got some yen left over, golden handicrafts.

2. First flight of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet

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If tertiary travel is too tedious for your rarified tastes, there’s also the maiden voyage of the MRJ coming up in 2015. Jointly developed by Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Fuji Heavy Industries (parent company of automaker Subaru), the MRJ is scheduled to take to the air for the first time this spring. Airlines won’t be receiving their own until 2017, but nonetheless, the upcoming test flight is a major step towards Japan’s first domestically produced airliner since the financial failure of Nihon Aircraft Manufacturing’s YS-11, which was discontinued over four decades ago.

3. Osaka’s Dotonbori Canal becomes a pool

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If you’ve spent much time looking at photos of Japanese cityscapes, odds are you’ve seen Dotonbori, Osaka’s neon-lit entertainment district that straddles the Dotonbori Canal. After years of revelers diving into the water after victories by the local Hanshin Tigers baseball team, someone decided they may as well make part of the canal into an outdoor pool, which is just what’s scheduled to happen to a one-kilometer (0.62-mile) section of it for four weeks in August of 2015.

4. The next, and possibly final, Evangelion movie

Creator Hideaki Anno has never been particularly decisive about putting a period on his masterwork, as evidenced by how Eva’s cash-strapped TV finale has already been followed by a half-dozen movies. Signs point to a late 2015 release for the fourth Rebuild of Evangelion theatrical feature, though, which has been billed as the culmination of 20 years’ worth of groundbreaking animation (those of you who can’t wait until the end of the year can whet your appetite with a teaser-style Eva short film right here).

5. So long, SIM locks!

Like topknots and the feudal system, SIM locks are set to become a thing of the past in Japan starting this May.

6. The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II

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2015 is also a good time to stop and take a moment to appreciate that Japan can get excited about developments in consumer electronics because it’s a country at peace, as it has been for the last 70 years.

7. Prince William visiting Japan

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Another thing that wouldn’t have been happening during open war between the U.K. and Japan, Prince William is scheduled to visit the country as part of a trip through Asia in late February.

China’s first all-electric planes to hit the market, for about US$160,000 each

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RocketNews 24 (by Meg Murphy):

Global warming is just one of many reasons why we as humans should make more of an effort to reduce our impact on the environment. Much of the technology we use in our daily lives has made things a lot more convenient, and it’s wonderful being able to zoom to the other side of the planet in the space of a single day, but the environmental impact our cars, planes, and the like have had is something we should all be seriously concerned about.

But what if we could make air travel cleaner, and cheaper? Last year at the Shenyang Faku International Flight Convention in China, Shenyang Aerospace University and the Liaoning Universal Aviation Academy revealed China’s first all-electric plane, which it soon plans to begin mass producing for the foreign market.


The aircraft, named RX1E Ruixiang, has a wingspan of 14.5 meters and a body made of carbon fiber. It reportedly runs on a battery which requires only 10 kilowatts to charge, which in mainland China would cost less than US$1. Despite that, the plane can reach speeds up to 160 km per hour (99mph), and fly at an altitude of up to 3,000 meters (9,800 feet).

With a maximum flight duration 90 minutes – allowing it to travel up to 240 km – the RX1E isn’t quite ready to carry passengers and cargo internationally, but its a start. Hopefully the technology can be further developed and electric airplanes more widespread, allowing those of us with the travel bug to scratch that itch in a more environmentally friendly way.

HondaJet makes its first flight in Japan as it nears full-scale production in the US

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RocketNews 24:

After several decades of research, development, and testing, the HondaJet is almost ready for delivery. But even though the business class jet, which the Japanese media has referred to as the “realization of the company founder’s dream,” is nearing certification through test flights in the United States, it hadn’t actually made an appearance in the skies of Japan…until this week!

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It was apparently the dream of Soichiro Honda, engineer and founder of Honda, to have his company produce a jet. In fact, it’s been over half a century since the founder proclaimed that the company was entering the aircraft business in 1962. The first significant steps in producing aircraft were taken in 1986, and since then, the company has spent countless hours on research, development, and design in the United States, where the HondaJet has been developed and will be manufactured, partly in conjunction with GE.

Though the jet has not yet finished certification, it has made numerous flights in the United States with potential customers and orders are already being accepted. Despite its airworthiness and the sort of high-tech features you’d expect from Honda, the HondaJet never actually flew in Japan until April 23, when it landed at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.

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The jet holds up to seven people and sells for 4.5 million dollars in the United States. It also apparently has 17 percent better fuel efficiency than most other jets in the same class, so just drop that little tidbit, if you’re having trouble justifying the cost to your spouse or board of directors! But you’ll have company if you decide to order now. Honda reports that it’s gotten over 100 orders between North America and Europe and it expects to start making deliveries in the US “soon.”

For those of you in Japan right now, you can catch the HondaJet on display at Sendai Airport, Kobe Airport, Kumamoto Airport, Okanan Airport (in Okayama), and Narita Airport in Tokyo on various dates over the next two weeks. You’ll be able to view the aircraft parked and catch some flight demonstrations as well.

If you’re ready to buy a HondaJet of your own, you can find a list of dealers here. Sadly, they only list North American and European locations, so if you want one in Japan, it looks like you’ll have to import it yourself!

The terrifying moment a passenger plane clips a highway before crashing into a river in Taiwan

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RocketNews 24:

A passenger plane carrying 58 people has crashed into a river near in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, just minutes after taking off, narrowly avoiding smashing into an elevated highway as it went down. Footage of the incident, which resembles a scene from a Hollywood action film, was caught on drivers’ dashboard-mounted cameras and has been shared online.

We should warn you that some readers may find the following footage unsettling.

▼ The moment the plane went down

 

The dashcam footage clearly shows the plane’s left wing hitting a yellow taxi being driven along the stretch of road. It then clips a portion of the roadside barrier before the plane disappears right and out of the shot, smashing into the water below seconds later.

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Air traffic control lost contact with the TransAsia Airways plane soon after it had taken off from Taipei Songshan Airport on Wednesday morning, BBC News reports. Although 28 survivors are believed to have been rescued, it is thought that at least 12 of the 58 people onboard were killed in the crash. The whereabouts of the remaining passengers is still unknown.

 

Interview: Bollywood star Ayushmann Khurrana on his role in the historical Indian aviation film ‘Hawaizaada’ 

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 Audrey Magazine:

Directed by Vibhu Puri, Hawaizaada is a period drama set in the heart of Mumbai, India in 1895, eight years before the Wright Brothers flew the first plane. It is about Shivkar Bapuji Talpade’s struggle against all odds — his singular mission and dream of becoming the first man to fly a plane. The British do not want him to get the credit for flying the first plane and become a hero to his people so the odds are stacked against him. Shiv, driven by an incredible grit, wills an impossible dream to come true. The ordinary young man becomes a hero to his friends and well wishers. Hawaizaada is a work of fiction inspired by true events.

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One of Bollywood’s rising stars, Ayushmann Khurrana, plays Shivkar Talpade. Khurrana recently opened up about his life and, of course, Hawaizaada:

How was the transfer – shooting to presenter to singer to film actor?

I became an anchor because I was a very natural radio presenter. I was a radio presenter for two years in Delhi and I’ve done theatre in the past for 5 years.  So I think the combination of theatre and radio somehow makes me a good presenter. Because one is a visual media, the other one is audio media and both communicate in a way. And after becoming an anchor for four years, I made this transition from television to films. But at the same time I had to unlearn a lot stuff, because anchoring is like talking to the camera and acting is like ignoring the camera. So I again had to do a lot of workshops before Vicky Donor and in fact before every film I have workshops with the director.

And singer?

I used to take classical training as a kid from Mr. Prajesh Uja, but never took it too seriously. I had to choose between music group and theatre group in college – I chose theatre. I think even in theatre we used to compose our own songs for our own theatre productions. So in a way, I got ample practice for acting and singing at the same time.

What attracted you to Hawaizaada?

Hawaizaada is a potential cult film, you know, it’s based on true events and even the one liner draws a lot of attention. It’s a very novel script and the director Vibhu Puri has a great eye for detailing. Be it entertaining with the language or the sets or the scripting. I think he’s another prodigy in the Indian film industry from FTI, whose short film was nominated for the Student Oscars.

How aware were you about the original story it is based on?

I was completely unaware. It was a pleasant surprise, pleasant shocker for me when I heard that it was an Indian who made the first aircraft. Though it’s a conspiracy theory but it’s broad enough for a filmmaker to make a story.

Can you tell us about your character?

Shivkar Talpade is a happy-go-lucky, maverick kind of guy, who is a genius, who is wise, who doesn’t believe in a formal education but believes in the education of life. And he has various tracks in the film. One track is a love track. There is another track with his guru, the master Shastri. One track is with his father and eventually how we fly or propose to fly the plane. 

How did you feel stepping back in time for the movie?

I always wanted to do a period film. It was on my wish list because I have a good command of the language– I’ve done theatre in the past and Indian Sanskrit. So I always believed that the root [of] every Indian language is Sanskrit. It was easy quite for me to learn Marathi and I’m looking forward to this film.

How did your look get decided?

We had almost seven look tests before finalizing this one. And it took us a good two months to finalize the eventual look. And Vibhu has an eye for detailing. Eventually we decided on this geeky/charming look. 

How was the experience of acting opposite a legend like Mithun Chakraborty?

Mithun is amazing – he still feels like an eighteen year old. He has an amazing energy and there was this huge fan boy moment when I met him for the first time on the sets of Hawaizaada. And I used to dance to his song “I’m a disco dancer” – it’s wicked. It’s a pleasure working with him. 

You star opposite Pallavi Sharda in Hawaizaada who is fairly new to the Indian film industry. Do you bounce off each other, help each other for your respective roles in the movie?

We used to do a lot of jamming together & Pallavi is a very natural actress. Apart from that, she trained a lot and it required a trained dancer. She’s one of the most intelligent actresses I have ever worked with. 

What was your favorite moment in the movie?

I think all the flying shots are my favorite because I had this fear of heights, which was completely eradicated when I was suspended in the air for long hours and it used to take a lot of takes. Eventually I started enjoying all the flying shots being on a harness. 

Are you a good dancer? What’s your favorite move?

I think I have a good sense of rhythm because I am a musician and a singer myself. Apart from that, I am a huge MJ fan so my favorite move is the moonwalk.

Who is your all time acting idol?

Shahrukh Khan & Govinda.

Why should we all go watch Hawaizaada?

Because as I said, Hawaizaada is a potential cult film. It is the untold story of an unsung hero and the climax is going to give you goose bumps. 

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Qantas and Samsung to offer virtual reality experience

Qantas airlines has announced its partnership with Samsung to introduce a technologically driven commodity to its first class customers. The Qantas x Samsung Gear VR goggles utilizes visual reality technology to immerse participants in an interactive 360° world. Inputted viewing options include a selection of blockbuster movies, various destinations, and Qantas’ latest products. For a trial period spanning three months, the futuristic entertainment set will be available exclusively to first class travelers seated on flights between Australia and Los Angeles.

Check out the Gear VR googles in action below, and share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

‘Nut rage’: Korean Air ex-executive Cho Hyun-ah detained

Huffington Post/Associated Press:

South Korean prosecutors have arrested a former Korean Air Lines Co. executive for allegedly endangering flight safety by delaying a plane because her macadamia nuts were not served the way she wanted, officials said Wednesday.

Cho Hyun-ah, the daughter of the airline’s chairman, has faced mounting public anger because she forced the Dec. 5 flight to return to its gate in New York to remove a senior flight attendant. She was angry that the nuts were served in a bag, not on a plate, in an incident that has been dubbed “nut rage.”

Prosecutors have yet to press criminal charges against Cho, but South Korean law allows authorities to arrest a suspect for up to six months over worries the person could flee or destroy evidence. Seoul Western District Court said such concerns were warranted.

Cho was arrested and put to a Seoul detention facility shortly after the court approved her arrest warrant on Tuesday night, according to officials at the Seoul Western Prosecutors’ Office. A current Korean Air executive, surnamed Yeo, was also arrested Tuesday for allegedly pressuring Korean Air employees to conceal the incident, the officials said.

The court said there were “systematic attempts to cover up” Cho’s actions “since the beginning of the incident.”

The prosecutors’ office has said Cho would face several charges, including inflight violence and changing a flight route, which is prohibited under aviation law.

Cho, 40, resigned earlier this month as vice president at Korean Air and from all her roles at the airline’s affiliates.

A passenger on the flight told local media that Cho assaulted and threatened crew members. Park Chang-jin, the senior flight attendant who was kicked off, told the KBS television network that he was insulted and had to kneel before her because he didn’t dare to challenge the chairman’s daughter. Park said Cho also poked the back of his hand with a corner of the flight manual book several times.

Her behavior touched a nerve with South Koreans who are frustrated with family members who control mighty business groups known as chaebol that dominate Asia‘s fourth-largest economy.

Cho and her two siblings quickly became executives at the airline and its affiliates. The family’s direct stake in Korean Air is just 10 percent but cross-shareholdings among Hanjin companies give it effective control.

South Korea’s transport ministry has also faced criticism because ministry investigators probing the incident were said to be too cozy with company executives who tried to protect Cho. Most of the ministry’s investigators formerly worked at the airline, South Korea’s largest, raising questions about their fairness.

Earlier this week, the ministry said it decided to punish four of its officials for misconduct during the investigation. One official was arrested last week for leaking information about the probe to Yeo, the Korean Air executive, in several telephone conversations and text messages.

The Malaysian entrepreneur who bought AirAsia for 26 cents and turned it into a multi-billion dollar airline

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Next Shark: 

Even with the recent mysterious disappearance of AirAsia flight 8501 dominating world news right now, it can be hard to identify with the reality of such a surreal situation. While the hopeful search for the missing flight goes on, here’s the story behind the rise of AirAsia from an entrepreneur who bought $11 million in debt for 26 cents and made into a multi-billion dollar empire.

AirAsia is rated as one of the best budget airlines in the world, having won the Skytrax World’s Best Low Cost Airline for the sixth year in a row as of August 2014. Like the current state of its sister company Malaysian Airlines, the Kuala Lumpur-based airline was once government-owned and virtually run into the ground until one brilliant entrepreneur turned the the diseased company into an empire.

In 2001, AirAsia only had two rickety Boeing 737 jets, 250 employees, one route and $11 million of debt. Entrepreneur and current CEO Tony Fernandes bought the dead company with several partners for one Malaysian ringgit — the equivalent of 26 cents at the time — and assumed the company’s massive debt under his holding group Tune Group.

Tony Fernandes was born in Malaysia but was educated at the London School of Economics. Before buying AirAsia, he had no experience working with planes. If you think the AirAsia logo looks familiar, you are right. A good deal of Fernandes’ charisma and style seems to come from his years working at Richard Branson’s Virgin Communications in the mid-80s as a financial controller. He eventually moved to Warner Music International in London, and then later to Malaysia, where his experience as a music executive gave him a sense of entrepreneurship and a feel for the Asian entertainment markets.
How did he turn a failing AirAsia into the now $1.5 billion-a-year company? The answer is almost annoyingly simple — he basically copied the same business model as Southwest Airlines for cheap tickets, good service and quick turnarounds for flights to keep planes in the air. The company reached profitability in 2002, and over the next 12 years, AirAsia expanded their flights to affiliates all over the region to become one of the the most efficient, low-cost airlines in the world. AirAsia now has over 10,000 employees while operating 169 Airbus A320 and A330 jets that transport 230 million passengers a year.
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In 2007, Fernandes told INSEAD Business School’s Knowledge:

“What does the market want? Nine times out of 10, when you go for what the market wants, it’s something that’s different … But we weren’t the first to invent low-cost travel, we weren’t the first to invent a low-cost hotel … We’ve taken it to another level, but we’ve been a bit Japanese in taking it, and adapting it, and making it better for our part of the world.”

Fernandes’ company actually looks a lot like the Virgin Group model — he is basically gearing himself up to be the Malaysian Richard Branson. His holding group, whose logo looks very Virgin-inspired, also manages Tune Hotels, Tune Tones, an Asian basketball league, the Queens Park Rangers Football Club and the Caterham Group, which covers a slew of automotive racing and technology companies. Fernandes’ net worth was estimated to be $650 million in February by Forbes Asia.

While the mysterious tragedies of disappearing flights in Southeast Asia may leave questions for most, for an entrepreneur as tenacious as Tony Fernandes, it’s likely AirAsia will weather the storm as he gets to the bottom of it.

 

 

 

 

EVA Air to fly brand new Hello Kitty 777 nonstop between Houston and Taipei

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 Huffington Post:

Hello, wildest dreams!

We thought we couldn’t handle one more ounce of excitement after learning of Hello Kitty‘s flights within Asia and to Los Angeles and Paris.

But now Hello Kitty is headed for Houston, and we feel like we just swallowed a whole sprig of catnip… without chewing.

Taiwan-based EVA Air has announced that starting in June, they’ll send their brand-new Hello Kitty jet on a route from Taipei to Houston, meaning a whole new swath of the U.S. will get to see those tricked-out planes with Hello Kitty luggage tags, Hello Kitty pillows, Hello Kitty soap and inflight meals where every last melon slice, cheese morsel and rice patty is shaped like Kitty’s adorable head.

Hey — even though she’s not technically a cat, we’d still let her have the window seat.

The new plane won’t be unveiled until May, but airline reps say it will feature the same delightful exterior designs as the existing Hello Kitty fleet. With 333 seats, the plane will also have Wi-Fi and text messaging technology, so passengers will be able to “send and receive short messages on their own mobile phones” from the air.