Monday, June 14, 2021

Japan's First Jet Plane [3/3]: The Fate of 'Kikka Kai' & Variant Development

 [Part 1] [Part 2]

Pilot Susumu Takaoka
  On the afternoon of August 7th, 1945, Lieutenant Commander Susumu Takaoka boarded the cockpit of the Kikka Kai at Kisarazu AF. The summer weather was clear, and a southward 7 m/s sea breeze was received from one end of the 1,800 m runway. The sky was a pure blue, and he squinted his eyes at the brightness of the clouds. 

Assigned to the development of what became the 'Kikka Kai' since the fall of 1944, Takaoka was present for all stages of development including the planning, wooden mockup examination, completion exam and aerial testing of the all-important Ne-20 turbojet below the belly of a Type 1 Attacker. 

It had a triangular fuselage cross-section similar in appearance to musubi rice, an airframe smaller than the Reisen, and lowly positioned engines. Looking at the actual plane during the completion examination, I wondered if it could fly. I felt that if it could fly, it would be fast, but somehow the wings seemed weak, among other things...

Before the first flight, several considerable issues had been identified which required caution. 

  • There was a considerable delay to the effectiveness of the throttle on the engine.
  • The engine could spontaneously seize if the throttle was reduced to 6,000rpm or below.
  • Due to the light loading, the flight would be with minimal fuel and a second landing pass may not be possible.
  • The braking of the landing gear was highly inadequate.

Despite these concerns, the first flight was to continue as it were. The breakneck development pace of the Kikka permitted no delays in anticipation of mass production and deployment. It was necessary to acquire crucial flight data as soon as possible.