Nobuo Harada, a resident of Yamanashi Prefecture and a passionate collector of World War II Japanese aircraft is set to start on a rebuilding task on one of Japan’s rarer fighter planes from that period – the Hayabusa fighter. Harada, also the curator of the Kawaguchiko Automobile’s Zero Fighter Museum – built in tribute to that other iconic Japanese WWII fighter plane – is planning to use original Hayabusa components to rebuild his plane, even if those components will be ones that were recovered overseas. 68 years have passed since the end of WWII, and this rare aircraft used by the former Imperial Japanese Army can no longer be found in Japan. Harada wants to remedy that lack.
“Stories of the war will be forgotten in 30 years. It’s now or never,” says the 76-year-old curator, knowing that his quest to rebuild a Hayabusa will take a substantial amount of time. The Hayabusa – literally “falcon” in Japanese – was a fighter plane developed by the former Nakajima Aircraft Co., and was used as the army’s main fighter plane during the war. This was Japan’s first fighter with retractable landing gear, and an estimated total of 5,700 Hayabusas were produced. In sheer number, the Hayabusa was second only to the iconic Zero fighters flown by the former Imperial Japanese Navy. As of today, four Hayabusa planes are known to exist, two of them in the United States.
While working in trading, Harada fuelled his passion for collecting wartime fighter planes. He had learned that components of a downed Hayabusa plane captured by the Royal Australian Air Force in Papua New Guinea in January 1945 still exist. The components had been handed over to a British museum in 1990, and after some negotiations, the museum had agreed early this year to sell them to Harada. The main components – the engine, the body of the plane, the main wing and the tail unit – arrived in Japan. A team of three engineers will work with him in the restoration process, and also with engine repairs. They are planning to spend all of next year in re-assembling the tail unit and the rear of the body. Rebuilding the main wing and the front part of the plane will take another four years. “We’re planning to break the parts into pieces and repair and reassemble them. We hope to finish rebuilding the plane in five years,” Harada says.
[via Jiji Press]
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