The Tachikawa Ki-77 was a Japanese twin-engined experimental very long-range aircraft, originally derived from a design called Tachikawa A-26, commissioned by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper to break a flight distance record set earlier by their rivals of the Mainichi Shimbun. It was a high aspect ratio, low-wing monoplane of all-metal construction with twin piston engines and a tailwheel undercarriage. The overall design was developed under supervision of Dr. Hidemasa Kimura of the Aeronautical Research Institute of the University of Tokyo, while Tachikawa Aircraft Company was responsible for manufacturing and detail drafting work. Work on the A-26 was stopped at the beginning of the War in the Pacific as Tachikawa was told to concentrate on military programmes.
Flight from Japan to Germany
When the Italians managed to fly to Japan in July 1942 with stops in Russia and China, the Japanese decided to try to fly to Europe, but the did not wish to travel Russian-controlled airspace doing so and development work was restarted as Tachikawa Ki-77. The first of two prototypes flew on 18 November 1942. The Ki-77 initially suffered from persistent oil cooling problems on the ground that took many changes before being solved, delaying the second flight to July 1943. While working on the problem, Tachikawa already built the second aircraft. The easiest way to Europe was that of following the great circle route, like the Italians, but General Tojo opposed this because it would imply a violation of Soviet airspace. Japan was not at war with the Russians and Tojo wished to avoid either provoking them or asking their permission. So the route was planned via Singapore over the Indian Ocean.
Endurance record flight
After the attempt to reach German-held territory failed, most likely because the plane was either shot down by British fighters or had developed mechanical problems along the way, Japan carried out a second flight to gain an endurance record and to verify the Ki-77's capabilities. Though in 1944 the usefulness of such a record breaking flight was overshadowed by the necessities of war, the Japanese needed a propaganda coup and the surviving Ki-77 was available. On 2 July it flew 19 circuits over a triangular route off Manchuria, landing 57 hours 9 minutes later and covering 16,435 km at an average speed of 288.2 km/h. The Ki-77 landed with 800 liters remaining in the tanks of the 12,200 liters it started with, so the maximum endurance was around 18,000 km.
The distance record of the Ki-77 was still in existence when Japan surrendered and the surviving Ki-77 was shipped to the United States for examination.
- Francillon 1979, p.262.
- Francillon 1979, p.264.
- Francillon, René J. Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War. London: Putnam Aeronautical, 1979. ISBN 0-370-30251-6.
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