Rare Japanese plane makes brief stop in DouglasBy Bruce Whetten
Local airplane enthusiasts were given a treat Thursday when a rare Japanese vintage plane made a brief stop at the Douglas Municipal Airport.
A Japanese Zero, similar to the one the Japanese used to bomb Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, was on its way back to its home base in Houston, Tex. following an air show performance in Las Vegas, Nev.
The pilot of the plane, Warren Pietsch, is a friend to Robin Brekhus, owner of the Gadsden Hotel and the organizer of the local air show that was held in Douglas several years ago.
Pietch and his traveling pilot escort, Chris Griffith, said they stopped in Douglas to not only get some fuel but also some good food from the Gadsden Hotel on their way back home to the Texas Flying Legends Museum in Houston.
Pietch said they had been doing an air show in Las Vegas commemorating the Dec. 7 event.
Griffith said their flight from Las Vegas to Houston took them two days and they arrived home Friday morning.
Pietch said this plane is just one of three left in the world that still flies.
According to the internet the Japanese Zero is a single seat plane and has a maximum speed of 316 miles per hour.
The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a long-range fighter aircraft operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) from 1940 to 1945.
When it was introduced early in World War II, the Zero was considered the most capable carrier-based fighter in the world, combining excellent maneuverability and very long range. In early combat operations, the Zero gained a legendary reputation as a "dogfighter", achieving the outstanding kill ratio of 12 to 1 but by mid-1942 a combination of new tactics and the introduction of better equipment enabled the Allied pilots to engage the Zero on more equal terms.
The IJNAS also frequently used the type as a land-based fighter. During the final years of the war, the Zero was used in kamikaze operations.
In the course of the war, more Zeros were built than any other Japanese aircraft.
Griffith said he normally likes to stop at the smaller airports where they can meet with local residents.
“It’s a great way to not only honor our heros but also inspire the younger generation,” he said.
The plane was in Douglas for just over an hour before taking off. An estimated 50 people were at the Douglas Airport checking out the vintage plane.