Members of Nagoya City Technical High School’s airplane club are planning to develop a seaplane that can be used to rescue people from floods — an idea they came up with after learning about the Ise Bay Typhoon, a 1959 storm that swept through the Chubu region, claiming more than 5,000 lives.
“If the region is again hit by large-scale floods, a seaplane capable of taking off and landing on water would be useful,” one of the members said.
The technical high school in Nagoya’s Nakagawa Ward traditionally focuses on educating people so they can work in the aviation industry, as well as other industries such as automobiles and electronics. An airplane club was established in 2010 by students who are especially interested in aircraft.
In January 2017, its members became the first high school students in Japan to create a propeller-driven manned aircraft that actually took off from the ground.
The five current members of the club, all of whom joined the club after that achievement, have been hoping they would also be able to construct an airplane from scratch.
Yuto Hattori, 18, and Masaki Hattori, 17, both third-year students, said they wanted to make an airplane that can be used to contribute to the local community.
When they learned from media reports on the 60th anniversary of the Ise Bay typhoon that the killer storm caused extensive flooding, they thought of creating a seaplane that can be used for disaster relief operations.
To get some insight, they visited the Gifu-Kakamigahara Air and Space Museum in Kakamigahara, Gifu Prefecture, which displays a US-1A, a rescue flying boat used by the Maritime Self-Defense Force between 1976 and 2017.
Using the US-1A, manufactured by ShinMaywa Industries Ltd., the MSDF rescued a total of 827 people including those involved in marine accidents and emergency patients on remote islands. After it was retired, the aircraft was replaced by the US-2.
Based on the US-1A, the students came up with their own seaplane design and presented their development plan at the school’s culture festival held in September: a two-seater about 12 meters long and wide, less than half of the US-1A, which is about 33 meters long and wide.
They are exploring the possibility of detaching both wings after the seaplane lands on water and attaching them together to be used as a rescue boat.
When they visited ShinMaywa Industries during the summer vacation last year, the firm’s designers told them the idea “is unconventional, but has the potential to expand operational options of seaplanes,” according to the students.
In December, the students constructed a one-tenth scale cardboard model, which will become the base for future works. This year, they will set about creating a precise radio-controlled model.
Just as the students who developed the propeller-driven aircraft did, the club members plan to seek support from local aviation-related firms through graduates of the high school.
When the high school made the last model, it took seven years to construct and make it fly successfully. Since two of the five members will be graduating this spring, the club’s top priority is to recruit new members.
“I know this is a difficult challenge,” says Keisuke Murayama, 17, a second-year student who heads the club. “We hope to hand down our dream and definitely realize it some day.”
This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Jan. 10.