A New Zealand resident originally from Tochigi Prefecture is campaigning to bring one of the four airworthy Zero fighter aircraft in the world back to Japan, where it can fly again in the skies of its homeland.“(The Zero fighter) is a historic heritage and a memorial of the war,” said Masahide Ishizuka, 52, who runs a company that manufactures flight jackets for pilots and also writes for aviation magazines. “I hope to link (the Zero) to activities to call for peace.”
Photo: FlyvertossetThe Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the mainstay of the Imperial Japanese Navy, was produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nakajima Aircraft. Japan produced about 10,000 carrier-based Zero fighter aircraft during World War II.In the early stages of the war, the Zero gained a reputation as a fearsome dogfighter with its slick maneuverability, long-distance range and high speed--three important attributes of fighter aircraft.In 2009, Ishizuka established a company in the United States with the goal of bringing one of the fighter planes back to Japan. His company purchased an airworthy Zero fighter for 350 million yen ($3.72 million) from a U.S. collector of vintage fighter planes. All four airworthy Zeros today are registered in the United States.The Zero, a Mitsubishi-produced A6M3 Type 0 Model 22, was found in the 1970s in Papua New Guinea, and was restored to airworthiness by the U.S. collector.But now that the Zero is owned by Ishizuka's company, there is no guarantee that it will be flying in Japan soon, at least not without overcoming a number of obstacles.All aircraft are obligated to be registered with the aviation authority of the country it currently calls home. Ishizuka plans to shift his Zero's registration from the United States to Japan, however, Japan’s regulations and high maintenance costs are standing in the way.According to the Civil Aviation Bureau of Japan’s transport ministry, to fly in the skies of Japan, aircraft are required to prove that they are structurally sound and meet current safety regulations set by the bureau. In addition, the pilot flying the aircraft needs to have sufficient knowledge and skills to control that particular plane.A bureau official said it would be extremely difficult for a vintage 70-year-old restored Zero fighter to meet the conditions.Regarding the pilot, Takehiko Noguchi, president of Tokyo-based Suisan Aviation, is the first candidate.The 40-year-old Noguchi holds pilot teaching qualifications for propeller-driven aircraft and jet planes in Japan, as well as a qualification to pilot Zero fighters in the United States.But maintenance costs are high. To keep the Zero airworthy is expected to cost about 30 million yen annually. Ishizuka plans to participate in air shows using the Zero fighter to earn funds, but it is unclear if that would cover the expenses, so Ishizuka is seeking more sponsors.“To preserve one of Japan’s historic world-class aviation technologies, I want to return the airworthy Zero fighter to its home at any cost,” Ishizuka said.Source: SHU NOMURA
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