Zero Flies Above Japan
A World War II-era Zero fighter plane flew above Japan last week, offering a sight seldom seen since the end of World War II. Flown by retired U.S. Air Force pilot Skip Holm, the restored airplane took off from a naval base in Kanoya, near the southernmost tip of the country. "I wanted for the people of Japan and especially young people to know about this Zero airplane, as well as those who are old who remember the past," said Masahiro Ishizuka, who bought the airplane in the U.S. and brought it to Japan last year. "Each of them should have different thoughts and perspectives on this, but I just want people to know how Japan has developed its technology." The Model 22 fighter, with rounded wingtips, is believed to be the first flying Zero to be based in Japan since the end of the war.
Nearly 11,000 Zeroes were built during the war, but fewer than 10 remain in flying condition. Ishizuka's airplane had been found in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s, in decaying condition, and was bought by an American who restored it. The airplane had flown at events in the U.S. and also made an appearance in the Hollywood film Pearl Harbor. Although last week's flight was originally reported as the first time a Zero had flown above Japan since the end of the war, The Associated Press later said "rented Zeroes have flown in Japan on occasion in the past." The airfield in Kanoya used for the first flight had been a staging area for kamikaze pilots attacking U.S. ships in the Pacific during World War II.