Monday, May 2, 2016

Two Zeros Take Flight

It is such a rare thing for WWII Aviation buffs to see one Japanese A6M Reisen Zero Fighter particularly one in flying condition, but entirely another to see two Zeros flying together! This last weekend at the Planes of Fame Air Show in Chino California saw this rare pairing of two of the world's five known flyable Zero's take to the skies to dazzle both war historians and aviation fans alike.
The Zero seen here tail number 61-120 is owned by the Planes of Fame Museum. According to her history, she was originally built by Nakajima in May 1943 and was deployed to deployed to Iwo Jima before being redeployed to Saipan where she was captured intact. After the war she was flown by many test pilots including famed aviator Charles Lindbergh and was destined for the scrap heap until Ed Maloney bought it in 1951 for his Air Museum in Claremont California. 
Still retaining its original Sakae engine, Zero 61-120 has the most original parts of the world's few remaining flyable Zero fighters. Seen here with the Commemorative Air Force's (CAF) Zero Tail number X-133, the two planes took to the skies and demonstrated Jiro Hirokoshi's  ideal air frame and performance that illustrated Japan's most profound wartime achievements in aviation technology. 
Despite it's tragic history, the A6M Zero symbolized Japan's resolve during WWII particularly late in the war when such planes were piloted by young cadets who made up the Special Attack Squadrons (Hotaru - Firefly) Kamikaze Squadrons. It is sad to imagine how so man young men in the prime of their lives climbed into these planes from their bases in Kagoshima to fight a futile effort that did neither bought Japan more time to develop jet fighters or win the war. 
All tragic history aside, it was something to see the look in the eyes of our friend and Buddhist Priest Reverend Ryuzen Hayashi who said his Grandfather flew the Zero during the war. You could see a sense of both cultural and national pride that his country (while tragically misguided into war) developed such a beautiful airplane. It was something unique to see. For us, the Zero will remain our aesthetic favorite for it's beautiful air frame design and a joy to watch as she took to the air.
We hope these planes will continue to be cared for so they can thrill future generations to come.

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