March A6M-2 Zero Update

Texas Flying Legend's

Texas Flying Legend's Museum
by Chuck Cravens

Hunter and Randy continue to prepare the main portion of the rear fuselage for skinning

Hunter and Randy continue to prepare the main portion of the rear fuselage for skinning

Update

They say if it doesn’t have guns, it isn’t a fighter.  We all know that the nebulous “they” are never wrong, so Texas Flying Legends decided that guns were a definitely desirable addition to the fuselage in this repair and renovation of their Zero.

The Model 21 mounted two of the Type 97 aircraft machine guns in the top of the fuselage, just in front of the pilot, with the receivers and all but a little of the muzzle end of the guns faired over.  Slots in the cowl ran forward for bullet clearance.  This Japanese designation signified a licence-built version of the Vickers E model machine gun. There was a type 97 light machine gun used by the ground troops, but that was a completely different machine gun.

Naturally, since the FAA (not to mention the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) distinctly prefers that one doesn’t fly with functioning machine guns, these are inoperative replicas.

Scanning

The scanning produced the model shown here.

The scanning produced the model shown here.

The scanned model is not in a format that allows for editing or modifications to its properties. It is but the first step in the reverse engineering process. Without software to clean, repair, and produce usable reference points that can be exported from the scan, it has little value. This next step of cleaning, repairing and generating reference is referred to as post-processing. This step is critical and not all scanners provide the software in order to perform this task.

Framework & Empennage

The rear fuselage framework and the vertical and horizontal stabilizers are nearing completion.

It is an inexpensive way to use two dimensional materials to represent the three dimensional tailhook for the purpose of fitting and testing operational clearances before machining the tail hook. The tail hook is an addition to the historical fidelity of the Zero added during this repair process.

Skin Fabrication

Skin Fitting & Trial Installation

Once all holes have been located and drilled, the skins come off again.

Once all holes have been located and drilled, the skins come off again.

That’s because the next step is to countersink the rivet holes. To do this on the very thin, light .020 skin panels of the Zero, the countersinks are formed by pressing in dimples rather than cutting material to a specified angle with a countersink bit. Then the protective paint will be applied to the inner side of the skins. The first Mitsubishi airplane to have flush riveting was the prototype 9 fighter that developed into the type 96 or A5M.  This fighter was designed by the A6M’s designer, Jiro Horikoshi, and is the immediate ancestor of the Zero. The allies code named it “Claude”.  When the flush riveting was done on the prototype 9, it was such a new innovation that the skill needed to create a smooth finished product was yet to be developed and the prototype 9 looked “quilted”.  Body putty was used to smooth out its appearance for the Navy review board.  By the time the A6M-2bs were manufactured, the flush riveting skills had progressed and produced a much more  satisfactory result.

Every hole needs to be carefully dimpled.

Every hole needs to be carefully dimpled.

The A6M-2 tail section on its tubular fixture.

The A6M-2 tail section on its tubular fixture.

Behind it is the P-51C, Lope’s Hope 3rd. The original Lope’s Hope 3rd flew with the 75th Fighter Squadron in China.   They never encountered actual A6M Zero fighters.  However, their log book and combat report entries frequently listed the Oscar fighters they fought against as Zeros because of the similarities in appearance.

February A6M-2 Zero Update

Texas Flying Legends Museum
by Chuck Cravens

Hunter squeezes the rivets that attach the stringers to the ribs.

Hunter squeezes the rivets that attach the stringers to the ribs.

Update...

In our first installment of the Zero repair updates last month we told a little of the Last Samurai’s history and showed the repair getting underway.  The shop has made this repair a high priority job, so visible progress is being made daily.

The work on fuselage repairs continues as the various empennage parts are reconstructed or repaired.

Parts

As always, new parts are needed for progress on the repair, so the fabrication shop has been busy making those necessary pieces.

Empennage

Here we have the area just under the vertical stabilizer.

Here we have the area just under the vertical stabilizer.

All the parts in this shot are replacements from Blayd Corporation.

If you look carefully in this shot and many others in this update, you can see some of the ribs are drilled for rivets and others are not.  Those parts that are drilled in these images are pieces that are being reused and the ones without drilled holes are replacement parts.

Fuselage

Randy and Robb discuss restoration plans as the two former adversaries, P-47DE-23RA  and A6M-2 Reisen face each other in skeletal form on the restoration floor.

Randy and Robb discuss restoration plans as the two former adversaries, P-47DE-23RA  and A6M-2 Reisen face each other in skeletal form on the restoration floor.

January A6M-2 Zero Update

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Texas Flying Legends Museum
by Chuck Cravens

Randy examines a stringer attachment clip destined for the rear fuselage assembly.

Randy examines a stringer attachment clip destined for the rear fuselage assembly.

Update...

The Texas Flying Legends Museum’s Zero originated with John Calverley.  John acquired some Zero parts in January of 1990 from a fellow resident of Carman, Manitoba, Bob Diemert.

John owns Blayd Corporation, an aerospace product and parts manufacturer.  John made the decision to build an A6M-2 Zero. To begin with, Blayd Corporation used parts from a wreck that was discovered in the Ballale Island jungle in 1965 .  Ballale is in the Solomon Island chain.  In 1968 Bob Diemert recovered several wrecked Japanese aircraft from that site.  A few of those parts were used and more were used as patterns for fabricating new duplicates.

Ballale Island is about 560 miles from Dobodura, where our P-47 was abandoned.

It would be great if they could be connected as possibly opposing one another in a combat situation.  However the paint scheme of the Zero is one that was downed in 1943, while the P-47 didn’t exist until March of 1944. This particular Zero, painted as A1-1-129, is a Nakajima-built A6M2 s/n 1498. The paint scheme is from one of the very few Nakajima built A6M2s for which, at the time, both the tail code and serial number were known. This was A6M2, s/n 6544, tail code A1-1-129, downed over Russell Island on 4 February, 1943. This Zero was photographed by the Americans when they occupied Russell Island. Some artifacts which confirmed the serial number were also collected. The tail code identified this aircraft as being from the carrier Zuikaku. The serial number 6544 also provided a date of manufacture in late December 1942. Given the markings and date of the loss of A1-1-129 ,it must have been flown by one of the two Zuikaku pilots lost on February 4, 1943. Circumstantial evidence seems to suggest that the pilot was PO2c  TANAKA Sakuji. 1

The Zero and the Texas Flying Legends‘ Corsair had a minor taxiing accident at Midland, Texas, enroute to the Los Angeles County Airshow.  There were no injuries, but the Zero requires some repairs before rejoining the airshow circuit in 2017.

With that goal in mind, Aircorps Aviation has been tasked with repairing the fuselage and empennage structure.

1       Ryan Toews, original researcher and paint scheme developer for the Blayd Zero, personal email, 2/7/2017

Picking up the Zero parts at Blayd Corporation

Blayd Corporation, the original manufacturer of the beautiful A6M-2 had already made many parts that will become necessary for the repair.  Their first class work on starting the process will do much to speed the date that the Last Samurai retakes the air. 

Horizontal stabilizer ribs were carefully nestled in a box.

Horizontal stabilizer ribs were carefully nestled in a box.

The parts  were boxed up and shipped across the border to AirCorps’ Bemidji, Minnesota facility on January 20, 2017. The cooperation of Earl Calverley and the other folks at Blayd was very much appreciated.

Back at AirCorps

This engineering drawing of the fuselage shows the stations to which the next captions refer.

This engineering drawing of the fuselage shows the stations to which the next captions refer.

Here Hunter is working near the back end of the fixture.

Here Hunter is working near the back end of the fixture.

This isn’t the more familiar Mustang or Thunderbolt and both guys need a little thought before proceeding.

This isn’t the more familiar Mustang or Thunderbolt and both guys need a little thought before proceeding.

A6M-2 Zero