WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio—Back in the mid-1990s, Gary Dale with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Aerospace Systems Directorate, got a visit from a Japanese researcher, Dr. Keisuke Asai. They were both doing research in the same field, and this was their first meeting.
“After discussing our research interests, Dr. Asai asked to go to the restoration shop at the National Museum of the Air Force,” said Dale. “I told him I would be happy to take him, but I didn’t know anyone there and wasn’t sure if we’d be welcomed.”
As things would turn out, when they got to the museum for their unannounced visit, Dale said a staff member made a “beeline for us from across the hangar, and I was certain we were going to be asked to leave.”
“However, the museum staff member, Roger Deere, chief of the Restoration Division, soon had Dr. Asai up on the wing of a WWII Era Japanese aircraft and looking into the cockpit, translating the dial and gauges,” said Dale. “As Deere was showing us around, he stopped at what appeared to be nothing more than pallets of badly corroded scrap aluminum, but it was actually all that was left of a Japanese Zero fighter plane—the type used in the attack on Pearl Harbor.”
Deere explained that he unsuccessfully tried all available channels he had to contact Mitsubishi, trying to get the manufacturer’s drawings for the Zero. It just so-happened that Asai was an aviation buff, and he had many aviation contacts and personally knew the curator of the Mitsubishi Museum!
Dale said, “Two weeks later, an overnight package from Dr. Asai was on my desk, and it was a complete set of Zero drawings!”
He delivered the package to the museum; the Zero restoration was completed in 2004, and it is currently on display.
“Thanks to Dr. Asai, the restoration of the Zero was completed with the use of the original factory period blueprints in a timely manner, saving countless hours during restoration,” said Deere.
David Lazzarine, restoration and project lead on the A6M2 Zero, said “With the rarity of surviving Japanese aircraft to draw references from, Dr. Asai’s contributions were instrumental in the completion of the museum’s Zero and maintaining its accuracy for posterity.”
Asai’s visit last week, September 5, was his first time back since he came in the mid-1900s, on what was a research collaboration.
When asked what he thought about the restored aircraft, Asai said, “I want to thank the restorers [for putting together] this very rare plane. I appreciate the Air Force."