Monday, March 2, 2015

Everett flight museum debuts rare WWII Zero

The restored Japanese Zero rests on the tarmac at Paine Field.

The Japanese plane was damaged by U.S. bombs during World War II, then recovered and restored in the 1990s.

By Bill Sheets, Herald Writer

EVERETT -- The Flying Heritage Collection's latest addition, a rare World War II Japanese Zero fighter, is scheduled for a first public flight in the skies of Snohomish County today.

The Paine Field museum's owner, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, acquired the Mitsubishi A6M3-22 -- also known as a Zeke or Zero -- earlier this year.

The plane is scheduled to fly, weather permitting, along with an American Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk, from noon to 1 p.m. today. The event begins the museum's summer series of Saturday flights by its vintage military fighters. Free viewing areas near the museum at 3407 109th St. SW will be open. The plane will be on display at the museum after the flight.

This particular Zero was one of many Japanese combat planes partially destroyed by American bombs at Babo Airfield in New Guinea during World War II, according to museum officials. In the early 1990s, the wrecked plane was discovered and acquired by the Santa Monica Museum of Flying.

Around 1994, this Zero and two others were sent to Russia for restoration. The fighter's salvageable parts were retained, while Russian craftsmen recreated any missing or heavily damaged components to make the planes flyable again.

By the late 1990s, the trio of aircraft was back in the United States.

Early in World War II, Zeros were feared by Allied pilots for their tight turning radius and tremendous speed. Later in the war, however, Allied forces began exploiting the Zero's weaknesses, including a lack of armor. By 1943, improved American fighters had closed the performance gap, according to the museum.

Late in the war, Zeros were reduced to serving as escorts for Kamikaze (suicide) planes, or as Kamikaze weapons themselves.

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