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JAL names ex-pilot as new president
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 17, 2012

Japan Airlines (JAL) on Tuesday named a former pilot as the company's new president as the once-troubled carrier continues on its flightpath to recovery.

Senior managing executive officer Yoshiharu Ueki will replace Masaru Onishi next month, almost a year after JAL completed bankruptcy proceedings.

"During the first year (of restructuring), we concentrated only on a safe and secure take-off," Ueki told a news conference.

Under government supervision, JAL completed bankruptcy proceedings in March last year after becoming one of Japan's biggest ever corporate failures in January 2010 with debts of about 2.32 trillion yen ($30 billion at current exchange rates).

"Shortly after we succeeded in taking off, the (March 11 earthquake and tsunami) -- an unprecedented disaster -- occurred, and we flew into a thick cloud we'd never experienced," the veteran pilot said.

The carrier temporarily reduced flights and switched to smaller aircraft in response to the decline in traffic after the disaster, which also triggered a nuclear crisis that badly dented inward tourism.

"Thanks to the support of our customers, efforts by our employees and cooperation of people concerned, we can now see a trace of the sun," he said.

"However, we are still in a climbing flight and need to move to a stable cruising altitude," he added.

Local media have reported that the company may go public by September 2012. During the conference, Ueki described the planned listing as "a key point" of the restructuring.

Ueki, the son of kabuki actor Kataoka Chiezo, joined the company in 1975 and continued flying until he joined the board two years ago.

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