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In April of 1937, a sleek, Japanese-built low-wing monoplane flew from Tokyo to London, a distance of nearly 10,000 miles, in an elapsed time of  94 hours. The plane, built by the Japanese firm of Mitsubishi for the Tokyo newspaper Asahi Press, was designated the Karigane or "Wild Goose." And the occasion for the flight was to record the coronation of Great Britain's King George VI.

The Karigane boasted remarkably high performance for a civilian aircraft of its day.  It was of all-metal construction, carried a crew of two and had a range of nearly 1,500 miles.  Moreover, its top speed was in excess of 300 miles per hour.

The aircraft was equipped with the latest flight and navigational instruments.  It was powered by a single Nakajimi Kotobuki III nine-cylinder air-cooled radial engine that developed 550 horsepower at its cruising altitude of 13,000 feet.

Western military aviation experts took a close and keen interest in the Karigane after its landing on the tarmac at London's Croydon Airport.  Japan had been employing military aircraft against China ever since it had invaded Manchuria in 1931, transforming it into the puppet state of  Manchukuo.  In fact, at the very time the Karigane made its round-trip flight to London, formations of Japanese bombers were in the air raining destruction on the cities of China.

The West knew little of Japan's airpower, but the Karigane clearly indicated the advanced state of the nation's aviation technology. Not only did the plane demonstrate outstanding performance but its design and construction compared favorably with those of other high-performance aircraft flying at the time.

So western military experts examined the Karigane's engine, its instrumentation and its flushriveted construction. While they recognized its military potential, they did not perceive that the plane was an indication of Japan's growing strength. However, the Karigane proved to be the direct ancestor of the great Zero fighter that was to dominate the sky over the Pacific during the early years of World War II.  In addition, the Karigane was modified for combat and became an outstanding warplane in its own right, serving Japan's military forces in the Pacific fighting.


The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
Permission was granted to ALLSTAR by The Franklin Mint to use the preceding materials.
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Updated: March 12, 2004