In the Museum: The Mysterious Second Seat
- By Rebecca Maksel
- Air & Space magazine, September 2010
(Page 2 of 2)
Only two -K2s were built. Designers modified the Ohka 11 trainer and removed one of the water-ballast tanks (used to simulate the bomb load) to accommodate a second cockpit for the instructor. To complement the solid-fuel rockets mounted on the catapult, a booster rocket was added to the tail to increase acceleration.
After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, a U.S. escort carrier transported the -K2—along with about 100 other captured Japanese aircraft—to Alameda Naval Air Station in California. And that’s where things got more mystifying.
“The Japanese painted their training and experimental aircraft an orange-yellow,” explains Momiyama. But the Ohka is painted a dark green. “One of the things that we’re still trying to decipher is when the -K2 was repainted,” says Collum.
“The outside layer of paint seems to have been applied by the U.S. Navy at some point,” says McLean. “We are interested in the chronology of the paint layers in order to correctly depict the -K2 as it might have flown.”
The fuselage is also damaged—and in a curious pattern. “When you first look at it, you wonder ‘Is this shrapnel damage?’ ” says Collum. “But then you realize that most of the damage is on one side, and none of the holes go completely through. So it’s probably from servicemen on the base walking by and just taking a swipe at the Hinomaru [the Japanese flag’s stylized sun emblem].”
The men are now looking for physical evidence or historical references that would indicate that this specific trainer actually flew. “The detective aspects of this are really thrilling,” says McLean, “but unfortunately, it doesn’t happen in real time. It happens in some other kind of altered time, and these tidbits kind of come at you from different epochs, and you just have to sit around and wait for them to come your way.”