Legend Zero fighter flies over Japan, first time since WW II

One of Mitsubishi’s famous Zero fighter planes makes brief flight over Japan for first time since World War Two

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A restored World War II-era Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter flies over Japan's Maritime Defence Force's Kanoya air base in Kanoya in Kagoshima prefecture, Kyushu on January 27, 2016

One of Mitsubishi's legendary Zero fighter planes took the skies over Japan on Wednesday for the first time since World War Two.

The restored plane made a brief flight to and from a naval base in southern Japan. Decorated former US Air Force pilot Skip Holm flew the aircraft.

Zero fighters were considered one of the most capable long-range fighter planes in World War Two, rivalling the British Spitfire. Only a few are still in operating condition.

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

"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."

The 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 fight, they were used for "kamikaze" attacks.

Kamikaze pilots took off from the same airfield as Wednesday'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.

TRTWorld, AP