The Plane of Fame air museum
is located at Chino airport
in California. This museum have a flyable Japanese Zero fighter.
According to the museum, there are only three flyable Japanese Zeros in
the world. And, only one of them uses an original Sakae engine
that was actually manufactured and used during the world war II. The other two uses
an engine manufactured by someone else presumably after the war.
The air show announcement was saying that there are numerous Zeros
in the museums of Japan. However, Japan does not have motivation,
resource, money, and restoration technique to put those historic fighter
airplanes back in the air. Unfortunately, this seemed to be true.
It takes substantial money and effort to keep
such an old airplane flyable. In many years, it may become difficult even for the
Planes of Fame museum to keep it airworthy only by donations. In fact,
The Commemorative Air Force owns a B-29 "FiFi", which they
successfully restored and flew a few years ago. However, FiFi is grounded due
to lack of budget (that's what I heard) to maintain its airworthiness.
Actually, the official
FiFi web site says it is going to fly this year, but the schedule is
empty at this time. So, I wanted to see a Zero fighter flying before they no longer are able
to keep it flyable.
|A6M5 Take off
This Zero fighter of the Planes of Fame museum basically flies only
twice a year (although it could occasionally fly in other air shows.) Once in
the Chino air show, and once in December 7th, Pearl Harbor memorial.
I cannot go there on December 7th because I am teaching a course in the
fall semester. I will be very busy early December to wrap up the
semester. Only chance for me was Chino air show. This
year, Chino air show was held on May 15 and 16, and we decided to go
there this time.
There is no question that Japanese Zero had a significant impact on
the aviation history. In the early stage of World War II, no
fighter airplane was able to beat Zero in 1-on-1 dog fight. U.S.
Navy's F-4F Wildcat was not able to out-climb and out-maneuver a Zero.
The Zero fighter dominated the sky over the Pacific. The United
States took a very logical approach to defeat Zero fighters.
First, they tried to capture a flyable Japanese Zero with first
priority, and finally they captured one that was ditched in a remote
island. The pilot was supposed to destroy the airplane to protect
However, he died on ditching and was not able to fulfill his mission. The
U.S. forces actually flew, analyzed, and finally found weaknesses of the
Zero fighter. The point was, there was no way to beat Japanese
zero on 1-on-1 dogfight, then just stop doing it. This idea
revolutionized the air combat. It was like changing the game rule. The U.S. then built a fighter, an engine, and tactics, to
re-write the rule of the air combat, and finally shattered the dominance
of the Zero fighter.
On the other hand, Japanese fighter development during the World
War II didn't go well. It took twisted turns and dragged by egos
of Imperial Navy and Army. They were not able to
re-take the air dominance before it was too late.
A Japanese non-fiction writer, Mr. Kunio Yanagida, wrote a
documentary series that looked at the World War II from the
aviation-technology point of view. I wish someone translate them
to English. This series is the best documentary
I know that focuses on aviation-technology
competition between U.S. and Japan. That book was written in
1970s, when Japan was at its peak of economical growth.
Nonetheless, he mentioned in that book that unless we (Japanese) learn a
lesson from the technological war that took place behind the scenes
during the world war II, Japan will be defeated in a same way again and
again. Indeed, I see a similarity in the computer competition
between U.S. and Japan in 1990s. In early 1990s, Japanese computer manufacturers dominated. U.S.
actually had to block import from Japan to protect its computer
manufacturers from extinction. Japanese manufacturers were that
much dominant. But, the U.S. overturned Japanese dominance just like
they did against Zero fighter. Since U.S. computer manufacturers
were not able to beat Japanese manufactures in hardware, they changed
the battle ground from the hardware to the software. We all know that
Microsoft dominated the market, and now once-dominant Japanese computer
manufactures are just one of many computer manufacturers. Bill
Gates is described as a person who was at the right place at the right
time (and with the right idea) to start a software giant. But, I am curious if someone else
was drawing a bigger strategy behind the scenes. There probably is
no way for me to know though. The author of the documentary, Mr. Yanagida, seemed to me a genius because he apparently predicted what was
going to happen in 1990s when he wrote his documentary series 20 years
We left Pittsburgh and headed for Santa Ana, Orange County (SNA),
on Friday May 14th. I was in good mood since I finally was able to
fly for my commercial-pilot check ride and got the certificate the day
before the departure. The Plane of Fame Air Museum is located about 30
minutes drive from Santa Ana airport. I stayed in Crowne Plaza
Hotel right next to the Santa Ana airport.
Since my flight from Pittsburgh was an early morning flight, we
woke up at 5:30am and arrived at Pittsburgh International airport at
around 6am. The security checkpoint was so crowded that I
was not able to see the X-ray scanner from the back of the line. I
was worried if we were able to go through the checkpoint before my flight.
Despite the long line, we were able to go through the security checkpoint in 15 minutes, and we got on the airplane
We flew to Dallas Fort Worth (DFW)
where we were going to change an airplane as scheduled. However,
severe thunderstorm struck DFW just before our airplane to SNA leaves
the gate. The thunderstorm gave us 3 hour 30 minutes delay.
We were exhausted but managed to get to SNA and checked in the hotel.
Next day, we left the hotel 7:30am so that we could enter the air
show as soon as the gate opens. This air show was hosted by
the museum, and main attraction was World War II airplanes. The
air show was not as crowded as other air shows that feature Thunderbirds
or Blue Angels. While walking to the ramp, I saw three SAAB Draken
fighters. I never expected to see Draken here. They didn't look flyable
though. One of them had left landing gear broken and tilted to the
| SAAB Draken. Whoes is it?
|| Cessna 210. The airport
was maintaining normal operation before air-show flights started.
Before the air show flights began, I was able to walk close to the
flight line. But, they didn't take out Japanese Zero at that time.
I was worried if there was some mechanical problem, and they cancelled
| Airplanes in the flight line.
|| A lot of P-51s.
At around 10am, the air show flights began. First,
P-51 flew over the show center in a missing-man formation with the
national anthem. I thought there were 11 P-51s, but my photo shows
only 10. I may have mis-counted. After the formation fly-by,
P-51 flew into the show center in a long trail formation one after
another. It was an impressive demonstration.
| A formation fly-by of P-51.
|| 10 (11?) P-51s flew over the
show center one after another as if they were strafing the ground.
Around 11:45am, World-War II Navy airplanes took to the sky.
So many WWII Navy airplanes took off. Among those historic
airplanes, only one of them had Japanese Rising Sun on its wings and
fuselage. Finally, I saw Japanese Zero fighter flying! Zero
made a steeper climb than other airplanes. I didn't know if the
pilot made a Vx climb to emphasize its lightness, or if it was a normal
Then the airplanes made a big circle around the show center.
Each airplane flew at low altitude in front of the audience and climbed
back to higher altitude when it flew away (to the behind of) the
audience. Always one of the airplanes was in front of us. I
was impressed by the demonstration of massive P-51s, but this big circle
of the airplanes was also
Then came A6M5 Zero! It was my first time to use my new E-30
camera in an air show. I aimed at the rear end of the cockpit
(where protection bar that protects the pilot in case the airplane
overturns on the ground is sticking out) and pressed the shutter button.
It made circle so many times, and I was able to try slightly different
camera setting each time.
| A-1 Skyraider. It was used
during the Vietnam war.
|| F-8U Corsair.
|| A6M5 Zero!
| British Royal Navy Firefly.
|| Zero came back.
|| F-6F Hellcat.
| SBD Dauntless
|| TBM Avenger.
|| F-8F Bearcat.
After the Navy fly by, Northrop N9MB flying wing flew. It was
also a rare opportunity to see such a historic airplane actually flying.
| Northrop N9MB Flying Wing.
|| Cessna Citation aerobatic.
In the afternoon, we saw flight demonstration of Army Air Corps
airplanes. (There was no Air Force then.)
| P-40 Warhawk
|| P-51 Mustang. I guess they
made it really tough. There are still so many flyable P-51s.
|| B-25 Mitchell. For some
reason, it had Russian Red Star marking.
| P-38 Lightning
|| P-38 Lightning
|| B-25 Mitchell. U.S. Air
They were followed by Korean-War era fighters, T-33 (aka F-80 or
P-80), F-86, and Mig-15.
There was an aerobatic of F-16 and a (kind of) aerobatic of C-17,
but the sun was behind the airplane. I guessed the photo wouldn't
be as nice as ones I can get from Dayton and Cleveland, and didn't take
pictures of them.
On the second day, I saw Japanese Zero in the flight line. I
took numerous close-up pictures.
| Right landing gear
|| Air intake.
|| Original Sakae Engine.
| Left tire.
|| Left landing gear strut
close up. I suspect that the yellow switch was added to comply
with Federal Aviation Regulation, which requires an airplane with
retractable landing gear to have a gear-position indicator.
|| Canopy. The bar
behind the canopy is to protect a pilot in case the airplane flips
over on take off or landing.
| Sakae engine.
|| Vertical stabilizer.
|| Tail wheel.
| Original serial number
and current registration NX46770.
|| Profile view.
|| I don't know if this
tab is from the original air frame.
| Inside landing-gear
|| Left 20mm Cannon.
|| Pitot tube.
| Left landing-gear
|| Left tire.
|| Right 20mm Cannon.
| Air intake.
|| Right landing gear.
On the third day, I woke up at 4:30am, which was normal.
4:30am in California is 7:30am in Pittsburgh. But, I felt a pain
in my right abdomen. I thought my last dinner was too heavy.
I used a bathroom and the pain started going away. I laid on my
bed again, but in one hour, the pain came back with substantially higher intensity.
I felt as if I were stabbed by a sword. Severe pain in right
abdomen, it should be from my
appendix. That's what I thought.
I was not able to stand up any more. I woke my wife and asked
her to call an ambulance. It was nice to have my insurance card in
my wallet. The pain was increasing its intensity. Within a
few minutes, an ambulance came, and I was carried out from the hotel.
In the ambulance, I first kept my eyes closed because I thought
that helped fight the pain. But, soon I realized opening or
closing my eyes doesn't change the intensity of the pain. So, I
opened my eyes and looked around the ambulance. It was my first
time to see inside the ambulance. I hoped it was my last time to
be carried in an ambulance, but I didn't want it to be because I died in
this incident. I usually don't get a motion sickness, but this
was fighting a sever pain in my abdomen, and I was laying down, and
shaken by the ambulance. I threw up a little bit.
According to my wife, it took about 15 minutes to reach the
hospital. I was carried into the ER of Kaiser Permanente Hospital. I thought I
would be given
a dose of pain killer soon, but the nurse told that they were not going
to give me pain killer until they diagnose what was causing the pain.
Then the nurse took some blood sample, and started saline infusion.
Then I felt my pain dissolving away. I thought the nurse finally
gave me pain killer. So, I asked him if he had just injected a
dose of pain killer. He replied he did nothing yet. What?
So, he did nothing, but my pain was gone. I had no idea what
was wrong. The nurse suggested that when I threw up in the
ambulance, whatever causing the pain also could have come out.
Blood test and ultra-sound exam came back negative. According to
the doctor who took care of me said that more than 50% of the abdomen-pain
or stomachache cases that are taken to the ER are caused by an unknown
reason. I guess my case was one of them. But, I will see my
PCP back in Pittsburgh soon for check up just in case.
I was released from ER at around noon. We took a taxi back to
the hotel and checked out. Then we drove to the Newport Beach.
Last time I came to the Newport Beach, I saw a lot of hummingbirds and
pelicans. I also take
pictures of birds, so I wanted to take some pictures of pelicans and
hummingbirds. But, I guess they come out only in summer. I
saw no pelicans and only two hummingbirds. I didn't have
opportunity to shoot them with my camera. I hope I have an
opportunity to visit Los Angels or Orange County in summer. In
fact, I was not able to see the Planes of Fame museum because it was
closed during the air show. If I have chance to visit the area
again, I will also visit the museum facility, too.