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  D3A2 Model 22 Val Manufacture Number 3178  
IJN
Zuikaku Air Group

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Ray Fairfield 1967

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R Diemert via CAF 1968

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John Loughman 1969

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Dave Fletcher 1969

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Planes of Fame 1991

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Justin Taylan 2003

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Justin Taylan 2010

Aircraft History
Built by Aichi completed during early April 1943. At the factory, painted with dark green upper surfaces and gray lower surfaces. The leading edge of the wing had a yellow identification stripe. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as Type 99 Carrier Bomber / D3A2 Model 22 Val manufacture number 3178.

Wartime History
Assigned to the Zuikaku Air Group. No known tail code. The fuselage had two vertical white stripes on the rear fuselage behind the Hinomaru. During early April 1943 during Operation I-Go Sakusen operated from Ballale Airfield. Afterwards, abandoned due to damage or was disabled on the ground. Afterwards, the Japanese removed the engine and the cockpit was stripped for usable parts.

Wreckage
This aircraft remained in situ on Ballale Island near the boat landing area on the souther portion of the island. Sometime prior to 1967, a small tree trunk impacted the rear fuselage and slightly dented the spine of the tail.

Recovery
In late 1968, this Val was salvaged by Robert Diemert with the aid of local laborers who cut the aircraft into smaller pieces and carried it to the shore along with A6M2 Zero 5451, A6M2 Zero 3471 and A6M2 Houkoku 1045 plus other aircraft parts.

The salvaged aircraft were loaded aboard a barge and shipped to Port Moresby then transported to Jackson Airport where they were stored in a pile until the middle of January 1969 when Robert Diemert negotiated an export deal with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) to transport the wreckage aboard a C-130 Hercules to Canada then trucked to Friendship Airfield in Carman.

Restoration
During 1969, this was the first of the recovered Japanese aircraft to be restored by Robert Diemert at his private airport Friendship Airfield. Restored using a Wright R-2600 radial engine instead of the original. By the end of November 1969, this Val was ready for an initial test flight.

First Flight
On November 22, 1969 took off from Friendship Airfield piloted by Robert Diemert on a first flight but had not yet registered or cleared. In anticipation of the flight, the Canadian Department Of Transport (DOT) had officers on the ground at the airport to to arrest him when he landed. Instead, he flew about 20 miles to land at RCAF Station Macdonald near Portage la Prairie.

Being a military base, the DOT had no authority and could not arrest the pilot. Diemert reported getting the plane to 260 knots, but felt that it was capable of 325. He said: "It handled like a big AT-6. Heavy on the controls, but "quite speedy and very maneuverable, of course."

Later, he flew the aircraft to Ottawa Airport and delivered it to the Canadian National Aviation Museum, in exchange for the transportation services provided by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) when transporting the Japanese wreckage to Canada in January 1969.

Display
Between 1970–1991, the Val was displayed at the Canadian National Aviation Museum.

In 1991 the Val was traded to the Planes of Fame Museum in exchange for a helicopter with Canadian provenance.  Painted in the markings of a D3A Val tail BII-201 assigned to the Hiryu Air Group, 2nd Carrier Division during the early Pacific War painted overall gray with tail code BII-201 with a red stripe above and below the code. The rear fuselage had two vertical blue stripes rear of the Hinomaru outlined by a white border. The cowling was painted black with the leading edge of the wing with a yellow identification stripe.

Today, this Val remains in storage at Planes of Fame Museum restoration hanger, in a partially restored state. No immediate timetable for further restoration is planned, although the museum does expect to re-restore the plane at some point in the future.

References
Serial Number & Production Sequence D3A2 Carrier Bombers by Jim Long
Winnipeg Free Press "D. O. T. Edict Fails To Halt Val Dive Bomber Test Flight" November 24, 1969 page 1
"Zero Recovery & Restoration" by Confederate Air Force (photo)
A Brief History of the Blayd Zero and Its Markings by Ryan Toews June 15, 2014 page 1
"These wrecks included several Zeros and one Aichi D3A2 Val dive bomber [this aircraft]... In the interviews he claimed to have found fourteen aircraft on Ballale Island - two Vals and twelve Zeros. One of the Vals was reasonably intact, but the other one was deemed good only for a few parts."
Thanks to Edward Maloney, Mark Foster and Ryan Toews for additional information

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Last Updated
April 20, 2020

 

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