Friday 2 August 2013

Gliders - Flight Endurance and Altitude Record

On February 6, 1939, at 7:52 in the morning two gliders were sling-shot from the peak of Mount Ikoma on the border of Nara and Osaka Prefecture. The first glider was a Maeda 6Ko 2gata with Maeda pilot Oda Isamu in the controls while the second was a Mizuno 301gata with Mizuno pilot Nakano Tokubo in the cockpit.
Right after taking off they entered a huge snow cloud and they started flying blind for more than ten minutes, reaching an altitude of 1,700meters and were pushed by winds towards the rear side of the mountain. Suddenly a strong downward wind forced them into a dangerous spin but even after they managed to recover their troubles were not yet over. Another strong wind pushed them to higher altitude, climbing at 5meters per second to no less than 2,600meters. At that extreme height for a glider more snow clouds made the two gliders unstable while the pilots lost completely their sense of direction. Although gradually regained control they dropped about 900meters and at an altitude of 1,700meters they finally got out of the clouds, simultaneously realising they were 10km away from their starting point at the mountain peak. After reversing course, with hands and feet numb from the cold, finally Nakano managed to land safely after spending more than five hours in the air. 
Until that day the glider flight endurance record was held by pilot Shizuru with 9hours 23minutes, but Oda declared that he would not land without having broken the record first. 
Two hours after Nakano had landed, Oda was flying over mountain Ikoma at about 1,300meters without any problems except for the unbearable cold which numbed all his senses and made him faint and recover many times. At 15:00 he started singing military songs to keep himself awake while an hour later he had some green tea and whiskey ice cubes he had brought with him. At 17:15 he started flying towards Tatetsu airfield finally landing at 17:25 having flown 9 hours and 33 minutes. Not only that but he also broke the altitude record at the time which was 1,700meters by reaching 2,600meters.

Below are some photos from publications of the time.

 Pilot Oda Isamu in his beautiful Maeda glider. Fuselage probably all blue with red tail.

Oda (right) and Nakano with the Maeda glider. The type was built in the Spring of 1938 as a prototype glider for the Ministry of Communications so the inscription on the fuselage side reads "Teishinsho Shisakuki - Hikari-shiki 6ko 2gata" (Ministry of Communications Prototype Glider - Hikari type 6ko model 2). A top level glider for Maeda in the soarer category.

Oda taking off from mount Ikoma. The two pilots had brought their gliders up on the mountain from January 23, kept them in a nearby restaurant and waited for favourite winds.

Nakano's Mizuno 301gata. The type was first built in 1937 and was said to be a copy of the German Schneider Grunau Baby.

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