Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. is attracting crowds of visitors excited to see a restored Zero fighter plane on display at its Komaki Minami plant. This, after the animated film, Kaze Tachinu (“The Wind Rises”) by Hayao Miyazaki, his latest and final movie, drew inspiration for its protagonist from the life of the Zero’s lead designer, Jiro Horikoshi (1903-1982), who worked at another MHI plant.
The Zero on display now was salvaged from Yap Island, part of the Federated States of Micronesia and was restored fully by MHI engineers in 1990. It became popular during World War II as a central component of the Imperial Japanese Navy fighters and was known for its lightweight body, sleek design and superior performance, easily accelerated and turned which brought it to be considered as one of the best fighters during that time. Horikoshi was known for developing the Zero and designing it to be the lightest plane possible, even going as far as removing steel plates installed on the plane’s seat to protect the pilot from enemy fire.
Since the movie hit theaters in July, more and more people have been visiting the facility. In August alone, 385 people visited to see the Zero fighter, including families and young people. Also on display with the fighter are samples of extra super duralumin, an aluminum alloy that is lightweight and was used to create the Zero, slide rule used to design the plane and sketches and letters of Horikoshi.
The plant is open on Mondays to Thursdays with free admission, but appointments are required for those people interested to see the whole facility and not just the plane.