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Metal panel apparently falls from Japan gov't aircraft

A metal panel apparently fell off a government aircraft during a flight from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido on Jan. 11.

    The Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF), which operates the Boeing 747, announced that the panel, measuring 38 centimeters by 20 centimeters and weighing about 500 grams, was missing. The panel is part of a joint that connects one of the plane's engines to the wing.

    The aircraft is based at the ASDF's Chitose Air Base. After a regular inspection, the plane left Haneda Airport at around noon on Jan. 11 and arrived at New Chitose Airport at about 1:10 p.m. The panel was found missing during a subsequent examination.

    The ASDF operates two 747 government aircraft. The one from which the panel had disappeared was to be used as a reserve aircraft for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to three Baltic states and other areas from Jan. 12.

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