Major Aramaki Yoshitsugu* was a member of the IJAAF Aviation test department if Fusa and test flew many experimental aircraft. The 1980 Maru Mechanic on the Nakajima Ki-27, featured a short article with his impression on the "Nate". Below is our selective translation.
Compared with other aircraft the Ki-27 looked very lightweight. The footbar was very soft and sensitive and the pilot could easily make corrections when shooting. During taxing, the aircraft has the tendency to turn to port, probably due to torque, so the pilot has to be extra careful and make proper adjustments. The Type 91 fighter experienced the same problem but no other aircraft after the Ki-27 had it. After taking-off there are no issues with the aircraft whatsoever, steadily gaining speed and altitude. During cruising the plane has very smooth controls when changing direction. During aerobatics, the controls has excellent response and there was nothing to be particularly careful about. Even working the stick roughly and suddenly, does not cause any autorotation. During air battle the aircraft has excellent response changing direction at pilot’s will. Nevertheless as a light fighter aircraft it naturally has low diving speed compared to other types.
In Nomonhan the slow diving Nates could not catch the I-16s and they sometimes escaped. But the Japanese pilots at that time were particularly skillful and could predict their opponents’ intentions and react accordingly. That’s why they were so successful. The Nate had an exceptionally good performance during shooting and with outstanding response in the controls the bullets basically hit their target without the pilot giving much thought. With this aircraft experts pilots all became aces.
During landing again the controls are excellent and the pilot can easily direct the aircraft making a very soft landing. It was a very good aircraft to land behind enemy lines or land and help shot down parachuted fellow pilots. Right behind the pilot there was plenty of space for two more passengers which climbed in through the emergency access hatch under the cockpit. The legs were rather thin but strong enough. They were quite apart from each other making it a very stable aircraft during landing on particularly rough fields. The Nate was also not nose heavy so there were few instances of rolling over.
To improve range the Nate was fitted with one drop tank under each wing. Initially these were box shaped causing numerous problems when released, hitting the wings etc. The fuel was also consumed very quickly so actually there was no real gain from this design. The units these were given to refused to use them. Later these drop tanks were replaced with others that had the shape of an egg in half but still these were not sufficient.
About 3000 Ki-27s were produced by Nakajima, Tachikawa, Manpi and others. Apart from them there were experimental Ki-27kai that were still in Fusa until the end of the war**. These were made of alclad, were very shiny and their climbing and control performance was amazing.
*The kanji of Japanese names can very often be read in at least two different ways. Unless there is some furigana above the kanji (check the Wiki entry) to indicate the exact reading chosen by the individual, it is very difficult to know for sure. On a daily basis Japanese TV programmes apologise in the end and offer the correct reading of individuals that have misread somewhere in the programme. The first name of Major Aramaki is mentioned in "Japanese Army Air Force Fighter Units and their Aces" by Hata, Izawa & Shores as "Yoshiji" but Watanabe Yoji in his "Rikugun Jiken Sentoki-tai" (the Army Test Fighter Unit) clearly indicates that the first name of Major Aramaki is Yoshitsugu and here we prefer this reading.
For more on Japanese names, the Wiki enty, here, is thorough enough.
**This is a very little known Nate variant. According to Encyclopedia Vol. 5, in July 1940 two Nates were experimentally fitted with extra fuel tanks behind the pilot's seat in an effort to improve range. It was considered a dangerous modification and was not adopted by the Army. They were known as Ki-27kai and he is probably referring to them giving nevertheless some quite interesting extra information.