Mitsubishi A6M3 ZERO
SN 3858 | Reg. N553TT
Original, salvaged airframe
Pratt & Whitney R-1830-75
Pratt & Whitney R-1830-75
Hamilton Standard 33D50
BACKGROUND & HISTORY:
Mitsubishi was first established in 1870 and grew to be a major industrial giant in Japan, involved in shipping, heavy industry and aviation. This iconic Japanese manufacturer built the legendary A6M Zeke “Zero” fighter during World War II. The aircraft was original and unique in both its brilliant design and labor-intensive construction.
The hulk of the plane was found at Babo Airfield on Irian Jaya in what is now the Indonesian half of New Guinea. Through 1943 and the first half of 1944, the area had been exposed to many American bomber attacks and this plane was one of the unlucky aircraft that had been damaged by bombs. Not only the area seen violent attacks, but also it was later bypassed by the Allies, leaving many remarkably intact wrecks and abandoned Japanese airplanes.
Babo was considered an almost mythical place in the eyes of aircraft salvagers by the 1970s and 1980s. A California aircraft salvager named Bruce Fenstermaker made a deal with local officials to obtain aircraft relics from the airfield in the early 1990s. Fenstermaker’s early actions in the area focused on an abandoned A6M3-22 Zero, which would become known as serial number 3869.
After location and sale to the Santa Monica Museum of Flying (MOF), Fenstermaker and the MOF almost immediately agreed to participate in a joint venture to acquire more aircraft from the site before Indonesia withdrew permission, or other salvagers were able to mount efforts of their own. By 1991, the group had acquired two other Zeros and other airplanes.
Efforts to get the three Zeros took “close to six years, covered two continents, and consumed in excess of 300,000 man-hours before all were actually restored to flying condition”, according to Bruce Lockwood, then MOF Director of Restoration.
The three Zeros hulks, in varying degrees of disrepair, arrived in California in June 1991.
After research, the planes were assigned serial numbers 3869, 3858 and 3852. All were in very bad condition – with bomb damage, bullet holes, and years of corrosion from being exposed to the elements.
The sheer volume of work finally led the MOF to make a deal with Flight Magic Inc. of Santa Monica to continue the restorations more efficiently. This group had ties with an organization in Russia that had produced replica Yakovlev Yak-3 fighters powered with American Allison engines.
The trio of Japanese fighters was transferred to Russia for completion in 1994. At almost the same time, the MOF unearthed a nearly complete set of Zero plans, which made a full restoration a much easier proposition. Original parts of each aircraft were used in the restorations, but since the planes were going to be flyable, “it would be mandatory that new materials and parts would have to be used in any area required to carry a structural load”, explained Lockwood.
The rebuilt Zeros were sent back to California in 1997. American engines were judged much easier and cheaper to maintain than original Japanese Sakae powerplants, so each plane received a specially made Pratt & Whitney R-1830-75 power section, an R-1830-90 blower section, and an R-1830-94 accessory section – all mated together to work as a single unit.
The first of the aircraft, SN 3869, flew in California in 1998. Marked as X-133, it is presently registered as N712Z and belongs to the American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum in Dallas TX, USA. Currently the aircraft is based at Southern California Wing in Camarillo CA, USA.
This particular aircraft, SN 3858, was the second which flew (2000). The Zero departed for its ferry flight in March and has been delivered to NAS North Island CA, USA, for shipping to Honolulu, Hawaii, for the filming of the motion picture Pearl Harbor, which was released the following year.
SN 3852 was the last of the three Zeros to be completed and has been purchased by the Flying Heritage Museum (today FHCAM, collection of the late Paul G. Allen). The aircraft made its maiden flight in 2012 and is currently registered as N3852.
Significant WWII combat history
Original, salvaged airframe recovered from New Guinea
Historic and authentic restoration using original engineering drawings (set of original Zero blueprints)
Marked AI-112 and finished in the colors it wore for the film Pearl Harbor, where it flew some 55 hours for filming
Cockpit restored to its original WWII layout.
Fitted with a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engine modified in order to fit without unduly changing the cowling lines of the Zero.
Original Nakajima Sakae engine available
SPECIFICATIONS ARE SUBJECT TO VERIFICATION UPON INSPECTION
Specifications and/or descriptions are provided as introductory information only and do not constitute representations or warranties. Verification of specifications remain the sole responsibility of purchaser. Aircraft is subject to prior sale, lease, and/or removal from the market without prior notice.