First engine-powered aircraft to ever fly in Japan returns to Tokorozawa in Saitama

TOKOROZAWA, SAITAMA PREF. – An exhibition of the first engine-powered aircraft that flew in Japan opened at an aviation museum in Tokorozawa on Thursday, marking its return to the city in Saitama Prefecture after 74 years.

The French-made Henri Farman biplane, whose fabric-covered wings have a span of about 10 meters, has a propeller powered by a 50-horsepower engine installed behind the pilot’s seat.

The first powered flight in the country took place in December 1910, when the Henri Farman was flown by Imperial Japanese Army Capt. Yoshitoshi Tokugawa in the Yoyogi district of Tokyo.

After the historic flight, the aircraft was moved to the country’s first airfield in Tokorozawa and was used mainly for training. In April 1911, it flew about 10 meters above ground for a distance of some 800 meters.

The aircraft was transferred to the United States in 1945 after the end of World War II. It was returned to Japan in 1960 and stored at the Air Self-Defense Force’s Iruma base in Saitama Prefecture after being displayed at a transportation museum in the capital’s Akihabara district.

The exhibition in Tokorozawa, designed to mark the 100th anniversary of the arrival in Japan of a team of French aviation trainers, started with ASDF support.

“The structure is so different from today’s aircraft. I can’t believe that it really flew in the sky,” said Takumi Matsumoto, a 30-year-old corporate employee who visited the exhibition with his family.

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