Home Base: Chino, CA
Operation: Western USA
Wing Span: 39' 4"
Length: 29' 9"
Height: 10' 0"
Max Speed: 388 mph
Gross Weight: 6,047 lbs
Power Plant: Nakajima Sakae 31
Fuel Capacity: N/A
Armament: 2 × 7.7 mm machine guns in the engine cowling, 2 × 20 mm cannons in the wings. 2 × 66 lb and 1 x 132 lb bombs or 2 × fixed 550 lb bombs for kamikaze attacks.
POF's Mitsubishi A6M5 Zeke "Zero"
The Planes of Fame Air Museum is the owner and operator of this extremely rare and authentic Mitsubishi A6M5 Zeke "Zero" which is on display in Chino, CA. and is only available for film or specially arranged events.
Although there are about ten complete World War Two Japanese Mitsubishi Zero fighters still intact around the world, two of them airworthy, The Air Museum at Chino Airport in Southern California boasts that Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero No 61-120 in its "Planes of Fame" collection is the only fully authentic flyable example in the world. Restored to flying condition in June 1978, this Zero fighter is still powered by its original Nakajima Sakae 31 engine, a 14-cylinder radial that produces 1,200 h.p. Except for the absence of armament and a few minor equipment changes, this aircraft is essentially the same as it was when operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy during the war; it even carries the same colour scheme (right down to the precise shade of green camouflage which varied in tone from factory to factory in Japan) and markings that it bore in combat.
Between March 1939 and August 1945, a grand total of 10,936 Zero fighters was produced in Japan, with 6,215 examples of the Mitsubishi design actually being produced under license by Nakajima. Completed in May 1943, Zero No 61-120 was the 2,357th aircraft of its type to come off the Nakajima production line and was first assigned to the 261st Japanese Naval Air Corps (JNAC) under the command of LtCdr Takatora Ueda on the Japanese home island of Honshu. Within a few months the unit moved to Iwo Jima Island for air defense duties and, in March 1944, was reassigned to the air defense of the islands of Saipan, Tinian, Rota and Palau.
Under the command of Capt Ibusuki, Zero No 61-120 and the 261st JNAC operated from Asilito Airfield on Saipan until the island was invaded by US Marines.
Under air cover from the US Navy's Task Force 58, Marines swarmed ashore on Saipan on June 15, 1944 and Asilito Airfield, with a number of intact Zero fighters, was overrun on June 18. On July 12, a dozen intact Zeros, together with a supply of spare engines and miscellaneous equipment, were loaded abroad the escort carrier USS Copahee (CVE-12) and shipped to the USA for evaluation. All of the captured equipment was offloaded at NAS North Island, San Diego, California and four of the Zeros were put back into flying condition, with two being turned over to the Army Air Force and two being retained by the Navy.
No 61-120 was ferried to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland on August 23, 1944 and subsequently flown by about 25 different USN, USMC, Royal Navy and civilian fighter and test pilots, including Charles A. Lindbergh. The aircraft was ferried back to San Diego on January 11, 1945, where frontline combat pilots were also given a chance to check out the Zero. Altogether, Zero No 61-120 logged over 190hr of flight time in the USA before being declared surplus after the war.
Originally intended to become a gate guardian at an American military airfield, No 61-120 actually wound up being sold for scrap. It was obtained by Mr. Ed Maloney and kept in storage in his backyard pending eventual display in his proposed museum.
In 1958, Maloney opened the Air Museum in Claremont, California with the Zero as one of the static exhibits. The aircraft stayed on display in Maloney's collection when it moved to the Ontario International Airport, California, then to Buena Park in the same state (where the collection picked up the "Planes of Fame" name) and finally to Chino Airport, where it is based today.
Embarking on what many called an impossible task, the museum staff began the process of restoring Zero No 61-120 to flying condition in 1973. After 4˝yr of intensive work, the aircraft took to the air once again on June 28, 1978 under the civilian registration number NX46770. After a successful flight-test program the Zero was shipped to Japan for a six-month tour, during which a number of demonstration flights were made over its original homeland.
Zero No 61-120 is now one of the star attractions in the The Planes of Fame Air Museum collection. Not surprisingly, in light of the scarcity of spare parts, the aircraft is flown judiciously and generally only in the Chino area. However, it does put on rousing demonstrations every year during the annual The Planes of Fame Air Museum Air Display which takes place in mid-May, and it is sometimes flown for other special occasions, It even spent a few hours in mock combat against the museum's Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat for the benefit of a Grumman Aircraft Co camera crew who produced a film for the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
The Planes of Fame Air Museum
7000 Merrill Avenue #17
Chino, CA 91710-9084
Phone: (909) 597-3722
Fax: (909) 597-4755
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