Japan's ShinMaywa Industries has successfully completed the first flight of its modernised US-1A Kai search and rescue amphibian aircraft, bringing to an end a programme delay of several months.

The first flight took place on 18 December in Kobe, Japan. Originally scheduled for August, this had been delayed by an engine duct fault and other undisclosed technical problems with the first production prototype (Flight International, 19-25 August).

ShinMaywa has been developing the aircraft as an improvement to the US-1A, 19 of which have been built over the past three decades, for use by Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force. Ten are still in service.

The US-1A Kai is powered by four Rolls-Royce AE2100 turboprop engines, which replace General Electric T58s that are used on the baseline US-1A. A joint venture between Rolls-Royce and Honeywell also produces the US-1A Kai's CTS800-4K engine, which drives a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries boundary layer control system that provides the aircraft with a short take-off and landing capability.

The new aircraft is expected to fly at 20,000ft (6,100m) - twice as high as the US-1A. It will also have an increased maximum speed of 300kt (555km/h) and be able to take off from water 50% quicker than the US-1A. ShinMaywa plans to complete the 100h manufacturer portion of the flight-test programme in March.

Source: Flight International