Aviation: Reclaiming the Sky

As white-robed Shinto priests performed intricate purification ceremonies, a potbellied turboprop transport rolled out of a hangar at Nagoya's Komaki Airport, taxied down a runway and roared aloft. An hour later, when the plane set back down at Komaki, a waiting throng of businessmen and Japanese air force brass broke into exultant banzais. The YS 11, first Japanese-designed commercial transport to be built since World War II, had completed its maiden flight.

Brainchild of a five-man engineering team headed by wispy Jiro Horikoshi, designer of World War II's deadly Zero fighter, the...

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