Mitsubishi A6M Reisen
Aircraft Series


Genesis and Development

War Prize

The Lean Years

Aircraft Identity

Colour Schemes

Power Plant



Zero and its Opponents

Preserved Zeros


References & Acknowledgments


Royal Thai Air Force Museum



All text material on this site is
© Peter Lewis
1985, 1999
unless otherwise acknowledged


The Lean Years

By May 1946 all enthusiasm for the Zero had drained away, and on the 6th of that month Air Department notified Hobsonville that the Air Staff had decided to permanently ground NZ6000. The airframe and engine were to be converted to instructional and held for the purposes of demonstration and exhibition only. The airframe was allotted serial number INST.113, the engine INST.BI72. This was done with effect from 8 May 1946, But initially the aircraft was placed in storage, not being transferred to the Technical Training School, also at Hobsonville, until 28 February 1947.
It was never used for its designated purpose, and lay in a corner of the TTS, tyres going flat and the aircraft in the way of men and other machines. Finally, patience at an end, permission from Air Department was sought on 21 August 1947 to dispose of it. Possibly as an incentive to this end, the idea was first mooted that it had some value as a war prize for display and should be offered to a museum.
This idea struck a chord, and the Air Member for Supply, Group Captain C E Kay, wrote to the Department of Internal Affairs of 18 September, asking if the War Memorial Museum at Auckland would be interested, as transport to other museums out of Auckland would be a problem. After some correspondence, Dr. Archie of the Museum accepted the aircraft but asked that, due to the dimensions of the machine, it be kept at Hobsonville until the necessary space could be provided. It was therefore arranged that this be done, provided that delivery would be made as soon as space was available; the RNZAF would deliver the aircraft as an outright gift.
Hobsonville kept the aircraft for some years, but their patience grew thin. By the early 1950s it was parked in the open with other old surplus aircraft - the Seafire XV, some Sunderland IIIs, and several Catalinas. Vandals, children and souvenir hunters removed fittings and instruments.
In April 1953 the Government Stores Board proposed that it be included in the sale of surplus material held on the station, provided that the aircraft was surplus. By pure chance, someone remembered that the Zero had been promised to the museum, although the relevant file could not be found. Thus it was saved from the melting pot to corrode for several more years. The Museum was reminded in storage, at Ardmore airfieldof its possession, and again advised that until completion of the new wing to its building, the aircraft could not be fitted in.
The only movements undertaken by the aircraft during the mid-1950s was display at the Easter Shows of 1954 and 1957. After the second of these shows, the aircraft was finally stored indoors again, at Ardmore in No.8 hangar, in a semi-dismantled condition.
With the 21st Anniversary of the formation of the RNZAF due at the end of March 1958, a large display was planned by the Air Force with the focus at Ohakea. One of the officers involved in the planning of this display, Wing Commander John Rees, remembered the Zero being at Hobsonville and decided to include it in the display. Accordingly, he dispatched a small party of airmen to proceed to Auckland, and told them not to return until they had the Zero. Collecting it from Ardmore, they returned to Ohakea only a few days before the display commenced.
Despite disbelief in their ability to restore it to presentable condition in the time available, they set to work on the neglected, assembly at the Museumstripped and corroded airframe. A plywood cover was fitted over the seat to disguise the cockpit, and a 'head' was fixed to this. Temporary repairs were needed to fill in the holes on the skin. It was then repainted in an unusual and inaccurate colour scheme and placed on display, widely acclaimed as one of the stars of the show.
After the display, it was stored at Ohakea until taken to Whenuapai airfield for further work on 30 November 1959 and then delivered to the Museum in December 1959, twelve years after the original offer and in far worse condition than in 1947. Assembly at the Museum premises was performed by Air Force personnel, thus fulfilling the earlier promise.