Japan has one godzilla of a seaplane.
- By Tim Wright
- Air & Space magazine, January 2003
(Page 4 of 4)
The main differences between the Kai and the US-1A are the Kai’s fly-bywire controls and its pressurized hull, but these are significant enough, ShinMaywa managers hope, to earn a new designation that will enable the company to pursue overseas sales.
The Kai’s first stop, however, will be Japan Maritime Self Defense Force Base Iwakuni, on the southern tip of the big island, Honshu. The former headquarters of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and a former fighter base for the Japanese Imperial Navy, Iwakuni now hosts U.S. Marines flying F/A-18s. It is also home to Air Rescue Squadron 71, and when the first Kais complete flight testing, they will be based at Iwakuni with the seven US-1As that are still in service. It was a Squadron 71 crew that rescued Captain John Dolan in 1992.
Captain Dolan is now Major Dolan, an F-16 flight instructor in the Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Of his 1992 rescue, he says: “From ejection to rescue was a whole series of miracles.” No other aircraft in the world inventory could have gotten to him in time in the sea conditions he was experiencing. “Six hundred and eighty nautical miles from shore,” he remembers, “nine- to 12-foot seas, 25-knot surface winds, and I am here to tell the story!”
Flying boats and amphibians have all but disappeared, but, as Dolan will tell you, there’s at least one good reason to keep the old—and new—hull landers around.