An Airplane Story

The other day I was at Target, picking up my copy of True Grit with a friend from work. We came upon a WW2 documentary about fighter planes. There was a Japanese plane on the cover with a six bladed propeller. I told my friend that it was odd that a documentary would feature a fake plane on the front. I knew my WW2 planes pretty good, and I was sure there was no Japanese fighter that looked like that.

The next day the incident got my curiosity and so I googled for information on it. Turns out I was only partially correct. There was a six bladed propeller driven Japanese fighter in WWII. But it never flew. It was designed by Tatsuo Hasegawa for the Tachikawa aircraft company. The Ki-94-II was originally intended to be a B-29 bomber intercepter with two, engines in a push pull configuration. But the design was deemed too complicated. So Tatsuo designed a more conventional version and it retained the same model number. This one was approved and construction began in 1944. There was to be a six bladed propeller version, but the first one built had a four blade prop.

The Ki-94-II was supposed to fly the day the war ended with Japan. It never took off that day and was later confiscated by allied forces and sent to the states where is was examined and destroyed. Hasegawa went to work for Toyota after the war and helped to design one of the most successful cars ever made – the Toyota Corolla.

One last footnote about Tatsuo Hasegawa. He designed a new type of airfoil for airplane wings which he used on the Ki-94-II. He patented the design and years later, NASA reinvented the airfoil and found that someone had already patented it back in 1942!

And that, as the man used to say, is the Rest of the Story.

 

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