Korea’s time to fly

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Korea’s time to fly

On Wednesday, we watched as a small, white propeller plane took off, drawing a circle in the clear blue sky, and softly touch down after 10 minutes on the runway of an Air Force base in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang. The new aircraft, Naraon, is Korea’s first indigenous passenger plane.

Thanks to this remarkable achievement, Korea has become the 28th country to develop its own civilian airplane. If everything goes well, by around 2014, the country is expected to join the ranks of advanced nations whose citizens can own their own planes. Although it can carry only four passengers, it has opened a new chapter in our production of airplanes.

Naraon was created by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs and Korea Aerospace Industries over a period of three years. The budget for the project was 77.4 billion won ($73.4 million), and 90 percent of production was accomplished with domestic technology.

With a flying range of 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles), the plane can cover all areas of Korea and can even fly to all areas of Japan, China and some Southeast Asian regions. Once a mass production system is built - slated for completion by 2013 - the plane is expected to enter both domestic and international markets at a price of approximately 600 million won. It is expected to be used in the areas of flight education, personal transportation and leisure.

The aviation industry is the epitome of state-of-the-art technology as well as the standard for a country’s technological competitiveness.

Korea already developed its own military training jet, the supersonic T-50 Golden Eagle, in 2005 and exports them overseas. In the civilian airplane industry, however, we are lagging behind other developed countries. As a result, we relied on imports, ranging from light airplanes to middle- and large-sized airplanes. But this new success makes us proud of the high level of our aviation technology, while paving the way for access to the global market.

The international aviation market is enormous. Worth hundreds of billions of dollars, the market is currently dominated by the United States and Europe, followed by Brazil, Canada, Russia and Japan. Now it’s time for us to go beyond our existing electronics, shipbuilding and car manufacturing industries to compete in the aviation industry as well. Naraon is a new word with the meaning of “ascent” and “one hundred.” We hope that on this occasion, our aviation industry will fly high enough to reach 100 percent of its capacity and beyond.
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