Legendary World War II Zero fighter flies over Japan

Zero fighters were considered one of the most capable fighter planes in World War II, rivalling the British Spitfire.

By: AP | Kanoya (japan) | Updated: January 28, 2016 10:44 am
Mitsubishi’s legendary Zero fighter flies during its test flight at an air station in Kanoya, Kagoshima prefecture, southern Japan. AP Photo Mitsubishi’s legendary Zero fighter flies during its test flight at an air station in Kanoya, Kagoshima prefecture, southern Japan. AP Photo

One of Mitsubishi’s legendary World War II fighter planes took to the skies over Japan.

The restored “Zero” fighter made a brief flight to and from a naval base in southern Japan on Wednesday. Decorated former US Air Force pilot Skip Holm flew the aircraft.

Zero fighters were considered one of the most capable fighter planes in World War II, rivalling the British Spitfire. Their long range allowed them to play a prominent role in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Only a few are still in operating condition.

While rented Zeroes have flown in Japan on occasion in the past, this was the first for the widely used Model 22 of Mitsubishi’s A6M fighter with its round wingtips.

This particular plane was found decaying in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s. It was owned by an American until Japanese businessman Masahiro Ishizuka purchased it and brought it to Japan last September.

Mitsubishi’s legendary Zero fighter flies during its test flight in Kanoya, Kagoshima prefecture, southern Japan. AP Photo Mitsubishi’s legendary Zero fighter flies during its test flight in Kanoya, Kagoshima prefecture, southern Japan. AP Photo

“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,” Ishizuka said. “Each of them should have different thoughts and perspectives on this, but I just want people to know how Japan has developed its technology.”

Japanese see the aircraft both as a symbol of their country’s technological advance and a reminder of the harrowing history of the war. In the last phase of the fighting, they were used for “kamikaze” attacks.

Kamikaze pilots took off from the same airfield as yesterday’s flight, Kanoya Naval Air Base on the island of Kyushu.

Under its previous American owner, the plane made an appearance in the Hollywood movie “Pearl Harbor” and at various events in the United States.

One of Mitsubishi's legendary Zero fighter planes, piloted by Skip Holm, a former US Air Force pilot, took to the skies over Japan. AP Photo One of Mitsubishi’s legendary Zero fighter planes, piloted by Skip Holm, a former US Air Force pilot, took to the skies over Japan. AP Photo