Zero fighter to fly above Japan once more in demonstration this week

By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

During its half-decade production run, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries built nearly 11,000 units of the Zero, the most iconic Japanese fighter plane of World War II. However, as a lightly armored piece of military hardware that was on the losing side of the largest armed conflict in history, there aren’t that many of the planes left anymore. Filter out the non-operational survivors, and out of all the Zeroes that left the factory, less than ten are still capable of flight.

Given that scarcity, it’s a rare sight to see the storied fighter in the sky, so military aviation enthusiasts are excited about an upcoming Zero flight scheduled for this week. What will make the event even more significant is that it will happen in Japan, marking the first time the Zero has flown in its home country since World War II.

The plane in question, a flight-worthy Type 22 Zero, had until recently been located in the suburbs of Rabaul, New Guinea. Masahide Ishizuka, a 54-year-old Japanese national residing in New Zealand, has been the central figure in the fighter’s return to Japan. In 2007, Ishizuka, who manufactures and sells flight jackets, was asked to serve as an intermediary for a museum in Hokkaido that wished to purchase the Zero from its American owner, who had been in possession of the plane since the 1970 and restored it to operational condition.

However, shortly after the parties agreed to the terms of sale, the world economy was devastated by the financial crisis of 2008. The museum expressed a desire to back out of the sale, but this would have made the organization liable for sizeable damages, as stipulated by the contract that had been made. So instead Ishizuka sold off many of his own assets and picked up the 350 million yen tab himself.

Now the one and only Japanese owner of a flyable Zero, Ishizuka launched the Zero Homecoming Project, with the goal of transporting the plane to Japan and putting it in the air. In September of 2014, the Zero was back in Japan, with donations solicited through the project’s website contributing some 23.4 million yen to the cause. It was subsequently moved to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Kanoya Naval Airbase, in Kagoshima Prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu, for research purposes.

However, obtaining a flight permit turned out to be more difficult than simply submitting documentation of the Zero’s restoration process and having the plane inspected by the authorities. The Japanese government has been in the process of debating divisive revisions to its defense policies, and some felt that a public display of one of the most evocative symbols of World War II wasn’t appropriate in such a heightened atmosphere.

However, with the political climate once again settling down, on December 18 the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism granted permission for the Zero to take to the skies, on the condition that the flight happen within roughly one month.

With the fighter finally clear for take-off, an announcement was made that the Zero, with an American pilot at the controls, will fly above Kanoya Naval Airbase on Wednesday. Civilian access to the facility is restricted, but organizers promise that the plane will also be visible from the surrounding area. Given the renewed interest in the Zero brought on by a pair of fictionalized accounts of their designers and plots, a large spectator turnout is expected.

Source: Sankei West via Jin

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No surer sign of a big fat Japanese lie than the phrase "for research purposes."

1 ( +1 / -0 )

For its time it was a very good aircraft, excellent engineering from Japan with a top notch German engineered engine.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

One of the interesting things about military aviation history is that military pilots admire good planes, even if they belonged to the "enemy".

There is no doubt there are any number of nationalists that will take great pride in seeing the Zero fly again. With visions of lost glory and all of that.

However, there are military aviation buffs and historians that will appreciate the Zero flying again for what it was and is. A really amazing aircraft. Yes, connected to the Imperial Japanese military and all that this evokes, but still an amazing plane.

At this point, it is part of history. The flight of the Zero will not resurrect the past empire, except in the minds of the nationalists. Abe and his policies are far more likely to do that.

I am sure the nationalists will be none too happy that an American pilot will be flying the plane, though!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Not sure but if it is an original Mitsubishi A6M, Rei shiki Kanjo sentoki 零式艦上戦闘機 it is exclusively equiped by a Nakajima Sakae 12's engine and for funny infos:

1/ the number 6 in the name it was for congrats the 6th year of the reign of the empereur: Shōwa Tennō 昭和天皇 2/ the creator of this one (as many others) was the Dr PhD.-Ing. Jirō HORIKOSHI 堀越 二郎 - 博士 he made a lot for the aeronautic!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It surly was a beautiful aircraft. The F4F wildcat that went against it early in the war looks like a hog by comparison. I saw a restored Wildcat at O'Hare all I could think was "you guys had real guts to go up against the Zero in this hunk."

Although out-classed at the end and with very few experienced pilots, the aesthetic beauty of the zero remained un-diminished.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Kuribo1, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero-sen--when first introduced into service in 1940--was a truly superior fighter, with an amazing climb rate and astonishing maneuverability. The Nakajima Sakae engine used on that fighter was inspired by the Pratt & Whitney and Bristol radial engine designs of the 1930's, but in a more compact form.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"The Zero fighter go back to Japan by the wing" (stamped on photo)

If you're going to have a slogan in English, well, why not have it in English that makes sense?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

One reason the Zero had better speed and agility was because someone up top decided that the pilots were less important than performance and decreased the armor. They would go up like firecrackers when hit. Unlike the Wildcat that had lots of armor. So going up against a Zero was not so daunting if you could get a good shot in.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

There is a very nice animated movie about the engineer that designed and built the zero. It's really not a kids movie but kinda cool. GOt to see a zero at the Oshkosh air show many years ago.. very cool. Even got to hear the machine guns rattle off some blanks on the ground as the crown wouldn't listen to the marshals and get out of the way for it to go out for its demonstration flight...saw a few old boys dive for cover out of an old war habit. I am sure he got in shit for it but it was still awesome!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"I saw a restored Wildcat at O'Hare all I could think was "you guys had real guts to go up against the Zero in this hunk."

The Wildcat had a kill ratio of around 6 to 1 against the Japanese aircraft. So your comment should have been directed at the Zero pilots.

The Zero, with no armor or sealing gas tanks, was a suicide machine. The Americans were able to down them very quickly and Japan lost its best pilots early on as a result.

The Zero was fine against the primitive Chinese, but was wholly outmatched by US and British aircraft after the latter got their act together

2 ( +6 / -4 )

I feel uncomfortable, not because of an 'iconic 'Japanese fighter plane of World War II. It is the illusion that the A6M Zero role, design and maneuverability symbolizing the effect 'ultimate sacrifice' played in modern warfare, rationalizing suicide as a tactic of combat, one man, one ship.

The A6M, along with the explosives-wearing ME terrorist equivalent, weaponizes the concept of divinity to the Emperor as much as radicalization of Islam.

“Nothing is as terrifying as war,” he began, before spending the next 90 minutes recounting his role in battles, from Japan’s early triumph at Pearl Harbor to its disastrous reversals at Midway and Guadalcanal. “I want to tell you my experiences in war so that younger generations don’t have to go through the same horrors that I did.”

Retired Japanese Fighter Pilot Sees an Old Danger on the Horizon

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I don't know much about plane engineering but... what the engineers achieved with the Zero fighters was incredible... few years back the first Zero flew Japan did not have a reasonable engine, the planes where pretty bad shaped and unstable.

Planes, ships, trains, cars and even TVs... Japan advancements of that technology during the pre-war and war time was formidable.

... Germany did too... Sad thing that both powers went all crazy and psycho during the war...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Drat it ... I'll miss it. Would love to go to Kanoya (again) and see the Zero zoom through the area. As I said before, they've got a nice war museum down there that is worth visiting. But to see a Zero air-bound ... that would be nice.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A pretty remarkable aircraft, and for that reason, and the reason that there are almost none left capable of flight, it would be quite the thing to see one flying again.

BUT, it's sad to think that nationalists will look up and not see just a remarkable piece of engineering, but the same pride that ended up with Japan being destroyed; a pride they wish to return to the nation and force on its youth. I hope those people are told over, and over, and over again that it's an American flying it, and if they get too 'nostalgic' you could even point out it's symbolic that the US should be piloting Japan.

Like I said, though... it was a pretty amazing machine for its time, and for that sake I'm glad it'll be taking to the skies again.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

JeffLeeJan. 25, 2016 - 10:45AM JST

"I saw a restored Wildcat at O'Hare all I could think was "you guys had real guts to go up against the Zero in this hunk."

The Wildcat had a kill ratio of around 6 to 1 against the Japanese aircraft. So your comment should have been directed at the Zero pilots.

The Zero, with no armor or sealing gas tanks, was a suicide machine. The Americans were able to down them very quickly and Japan lost its best pilots early on as a result.

The Zero was fine against the primitive Chinese, but was wholly outmatched by US and British aircraft after the latter got their act together

You're corrrect - once Wildcat pilots learned how to take advantage of their plane's strengths (esp. ruggedness, dive speed, self-sealing tanks) and newly learned tactics, the Wildcat held its own, and then some. Then came the Hellcat and Corsair, and the Zero yesterdays's news.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

To the Editor, I saw this coverage of ‘Zero fighter flies over Japan for 1st time since WWII’ and thought that I would provide you with some information. In 1978 the Planes of Fame Air Museum located in Chino California USA shipped its Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero fighter serial number 5357 (tail number 61-120) the only fully authentic flyable Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane in the world powered by its original Nakajima Sakae radial engine to Japan for a tour where it took part and flew in eight air shows. In 1995 the Zero was again shipped to Japan in company with a Planes of Fame Air Museum North American P-51D Mustang. Both aircraft took part in five air shows during a tour titled “Flying As Friends” before returning to the United States. The Planes of Fame Air Museum’s A6M5 Zero returned to Japan once again in 2013 for an extended display at the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum where it was on display and engine run-ups were performed to large crowds. The Planes of Fame Air Museum’s Zero was captured on Saipan in 1944 and shipped to the United States to be flown for evaluation purposes and to give a number of American aviators a chance to experience its flying characteristics first hand. Among the American pilots who flew the Zero were aviation pioneer Charles Lindberg and noted U.S. Marine Corps ace Marion Carl. Three A6M Zero fighters were re-manufactured in 1993 using a few components from several wrecked Japanese fighter planes recovered from jungles in the South Pacific. The aircraft are A6M3 models re-manufactured in Russia, and are powered by American Pratt & Whitney radial engines. It is one of these aircraft that you are featuring in your article. Thank you,

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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