To mark the anniversary of the end of the Second World War, a Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane is being prepared to appear in the skies over Japan again, almost seventy years after its tour of duty with the Imperial Japanese Navy, according to the Japan Times.
The aircraft is currently displayed at the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Kanoya Air Base in Kagoshima Prefecture. It was reassembled and its engine tested the the beginning of July 7 in collaboration with US Federal Aviation Administration engineers.
“We hope this will make people reflect on the past and think of their future,” says Hitoshi Okubo, a spokesman for the Tokyo branch of Zero Enterprise Inc, based in Delaware, which initiated the project to bring the aircraft to Japan.
Often referred to as the Reisen, or Zero, the plane was built by the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and was operational from 1940 to 1945. This model was returned to Japan last September from storage in America last September. It had been found in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s and restored by collector and current owner Masahide Ishizuka, who bought the plane in 2008.
It is one of just six existing Zeros that are capable of flight, five of which remain stored or on display in the United States, according to Zero Enterprise Inc.
More than 400 Zero fighters were active in the Pacific and played a significant role in Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. It had a maximum speed of 533kph and a range of 3,105km.
“We wanted to give young people in particular an opportunity to think of the impact of war,” Okubo told The Japan Times, pointing to the value of the plane as an educational asset.
“There are discussions around Japan’s policies on the right to the collective self-defense… but how can we expect young people to voice their opinions about the future if they don’t know their country’s past?”
Zero Enterprise Inc plans to apply to the Japanese government for flight approval but there are safety concerns, so it is not a certainty that permission will be granted. Ironically, if approval is given, the plane will have to be flown by an American pilot because no Japanese aviator has a licence to operate a Zero, according to Okubo.