KANOYA, KAGOSHIMA PREF. - One of Mitsubishi’s legendary Zero fighters took to the skies over Japan on Wednesday for the first time since World War II.
The restored plane made a brief flight from a naval base in Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture. Decorated former U.S. Air Force pilot Skip Holm flew the aircraft.
Zero fighters were considered one of the most capable long-range fighter planes in World War II, rivaling the British Spitfire.
Only a handful remain in operating condition.
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.
“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.
The airfield used for Wednesday’s flight, Kanoya Naval Air Base, was the point of departure for some kamikaze pilots during the war.
Under its previous American owner, the plane made an appearance in the Hollywood movie “Pearl Harbor” and at various events in the United States.