|I stopped by the Texas Airplane Factory at Meacham Field in Ft. Worth, Texas, to see the handiwork of Herb and George Tischler. Inside a very large and unassuming hangar is a project of immense proportions. Four World War II Japanese Ki-43 “Oscar” fighters are being built as brand new airplanes. Oscar wrecks were recovered from the northern-most Japanese islands several years ago and now serve as living blueprints to create these new machines.|
|Stepping into the hangar you see the first Oscar fighter positioned on jack stands awaiting the engine installation. The airframe looks very much complete and its graceful lines are eye-catching.|
|The Oscar was the most widely flown fighter of the Japanese Army. Three variants were produced from early 1941 until late 1944. Production numbers reached almost 6,000 total aircraft. Its top speed was approximately 350 mph and the range exceeded 1,000 miles with internal fuel tanks. The Oscar saw combat in all Pacific areas where the Army operated and most aces scored their kills in this aircraft. It was also widely used for suicide attacks at the end of the war. Its type has almost ceased to exist, as with many other Japanese aircraft, since the end of the war.|
|The new production of the Ki-43 will be a great addition to the growing population of flying Japanese fighters in the warbird community. The Texas Airplane Factory decided to use an 1830, DC-3 engine, to power the new Oscars. Many of the current flying Mitsubishi Zeros are powered by 1830s which are still very common engines. The Japanese were also under license to build DC-3 aircraft in the 1930s, so it would not be too far from reality to think that an 1830 could have powered an Oscar in World War II. The engine is only 4 inches larger in radius than the original Nakajima power-plant and fits snugly into the nacelle. The new propeller is a DC-3 hub with cut-down Loadstar blades.|
|Many other improvements have been designed into the new production to help make it more operational as a modern aircraft and to increase safety.|
| A T-33 nose wheel tire serves as the main gear rubber and custom disc brakes will replace the old drum braking system. Other items have been replicated as closely to the original parts as possible while still retaining modern functionality. |
The Texas Airplane Factory is planning to have the first Oscar flying by the end of 2003. The other three should be finished in the following year or so. Test flights are expected to be performed by very competent air race and test pilots to make sure the planes fly well and all of the bugs are worked out of the flight systems.
The first aircraft is already sold and the remaining three are currently awaiting buyers. It will be a real treat to see these magnificent machines take to the air after almost 60 years of virtual nonexistence.
All images and text are © copyrighted by Chuck Gardner & the Warbirds Resource Group, 2003.
All graphics are © copyrighted by Scott Rose/Angelslave Productions, 2003.