06 April 2016

CHECK SIX: The 1937 Kamikaze Flight That Didn't End with a Fiery Crash

"CHECK SIX" is new little feature I'm going to be introducing here and there here at Tails Through Time as a little filler in-between my primary articles. The name for this feature is because they're going to be quick looks back in aviation history that don't necessarily warrant my more in-depth articles. The titles for these short tidbits will always start off with "CHECK SIX". 

This particular Mitsubishi Ki-15 with the registration J-BAAI was the first Japanese aircraft to fly to Europe when it left Tokyo on this day (April 6) in 1937 for a oodwill flight to London Croydon Airport. Sponsored by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper as part of the celebrations for the coronation of King George VI, the plane was named "Kamikaze-go" and flew Tokyo-Taipei-Hanoi-Vientiane-Calcutta-Karachi-Basra-Baghdad-Athens-Rome-Paris-London. The pilot, Masaaki Iinuma, was only 26 at the time and both he and his navigator, Kenji Tsukagoshi, were awarded the Legion of Honor by the French. 

Total elapsed time from departure in Tokyo was 94 hours, of which 51 hours were actual flying time. Iinuma later served as a test pilot in Japan and was killed in action in December 1941 in Cambodia. The navigator, Tsukagoshi, was on the Tachikawa Ki-77 prototype when it set of for a flight to Germany from Singapore in 1943, but the Ki-77 disappeared over the Indian Ocean. 

The Japanese classical music composer Hisato Ohzawa wrote the Piano Concerto No.3 "Kamikaze" in honor of this record breaking flight. If you're a fan of the composer Sergei Prokofiev, Ohzawa's work is in that Impressionistic style. 

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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