SAPPORO – An animator’s fictional machine has come to life after a fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” spent about 10 years and ¥100 million building a glider seen in the movie.
The copy of the heroine’s Mehve glider has been taking to the sky for brief flights at Takikawa Sky Park in Hokkaido. It differs from the penman’s prototype only in containing a tiny jet engine.
The M-02J has a 9.63-meter wingspan and a fuselage measuring 2.67 meters.
A typical test flight in July saw it taxi for 20 seconds, take off and fly for about 15 seconds before touching down again.
“Modern technologies allowed us to bring a fictional glider to life pretty well,” said the plane’s developer, Kazuhiko Hachiya.
Hachiya, the 48-year-old president of software development company PetWORKs Co. and an associate professor in intermedia art at Tokyo University, pilots the plane himself.
The aircraft is made of wood, reinforced plastics and aluminum alloys. It weighs 88.6 kilograms, roughly the weight of a motorbike.
While the aircraft does not need a license to take to the sky for tests like this, Hachiya has permission for trials from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s Civil Aviation Bureau.
The pilot lies prone and steers the aircraft by shifting his or her weight in the desired direction.
Hachiya said the principle is similar to that used by the Wright Flyer powered aircraft, built by the Wright brothers in 1903.
Hailing from Saga Prefecture, Hachiya founded PetWORKs in 1998 and became known for the hugely successful “PostPet” message delivery software.
It was around that time that he read the manga comic “Nausicaa” and began dreaming vaguely of one day building a Mehve.
He chose to pull the trigger on the project in 2003, when then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi decided to support the United States’ invasion of Iraq, and send Self-Defense Forces personnel to help with reconstruction projects in the country.
Hachiya saw parallels between the political situation in Japan and the story of “Nausicaa,” in which the Valley of the Wind is caught in conflict between two major powers.
“I wished that a Japanese leader had been Nausicaa — who searched for a way to avoid conflict,” he said.
His decision to build and fly a Mehve was in some way a personal protest.
To learn how he might pilot such an aircraft, he trained on a hang glider and improved his physical strength by practicing Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art.
Hachiya made his first successful flight in Chiba Prefecture in July 2013.
Over the decade, development costs neared ¥100 million — a sum met from PetWORKs’ research and development expenditure and from his own pocket.
The airstrip at Takikawa is considered ideal for test flights, in which the M-02J will not fly more than about 3 meters off the ground. But Hachiya aims to take the plane to roughly 200 meters once the transport ministry’s Civil Aviation Bureau grants him permission.
“I hope to create flight as close as possible to how I have imagined it, through repeated study and modifications,” Hachiya said.
And then, he said, perhaps he will take the plane to air shows in the United States and France, to bring some real-life “Nausicaa” magic to dreamers worldwide.
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