February 2013

Experimenter is a magazine created by EAA for people who build airplanes. We will report on amateur-built aircraft as well as ultralights and other light aircraft.

Issue link: https://experimenter.epubxp.com/i/108002

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Page 21 of 44

W h a t o ur M e m b e r s a r e B uil d in g The Last Zero Mechanic Building a Japanese replica By Bill McElwee, EAA 376289 Don Osmundson (EAA 114643) believes that he may have the only flyable Japanese Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero replica in the world. It is only half scale, to be sure, but Don knows that it is an authentic representation of the Zero. He knows a lot more about the real Zero than perhaps any other American. The story begins at the Battle of the Coral Sea. As a young sailor and aircraft mechanic, Don had a close encounter with the real Japanese aircraft when his carrier, the USS Lexington, was so damaged by Japanese attacks that it had to be abandoned and then sunk by one of our destroyers. Next Don spent a few months at San Diego getting the first F4U Corsairs ready to go off to the war, and then he was sent to the Hebrides Islands where his aviation engine overhaul unit overhauled 1,000 engines a month on Grumman fight- 22 Vol.2 N o.2 / February 2 013 ers, which were being worn out fighting the Zero. Then it was off to flight school. But about the time he got to fly N3N biplanes, the war was ending, and the Navy decided no more pilots were needed. Next came the most interesting part of Don's life. He was sent to the Tactical Air Intelligence Center in Washington, D.C. Fifteen captured Zeros had been brought there from Saipan for testing and analysis. Don and his unit assembled five flyable Zeros from those 15 fighters so test pilots could put them through their paces. While he didn't get to fly one, Don did get a lot of taxi time in them. In those months, Don got to know the A6M5 Zero in and out. Don went on to get his A&E (then known as an airframe and engine rating) and his IA (inspection au-

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