by Ron Cole
|I photographed Chino's J2M3 on two occasions: once in 1987 when the aircraft's
interior still retained most of its original equipment and was painted in
its original colors, and again in 1989 after someone had reequipped the cockpit
with American gauges and repainted the interior with a nice even coat of
battleship gray and a trendy hot rod metallic green (I could digress into
a bitter rant about this)! Nevertheless I was granted full access to the
cockpit and accumulated these photos.
Due to this airframe having spent its early years in outdoor display, and due to the fact that as a late-war machine it wasn't corrosion-proofed by Mitsubishi, it is being held together by numerous layers of exterior paint. The museum staff warned me back in 1987 not to "move around too aggressively" as the aircraft was at risk of landing gear collapse. Recently the right landing gear did just that, and last year I noted the obvious damage to the wheel well as a result. But it is a grand-looking brute of a machine - and it's the only one left in the world.