“For a brief period in 1937, the Mitsubishi Type 97 Ki-15 was the fastest production airplane in the world. It was a high-speed reconnaissance aircraft capable of flying faster and higher than any fighter it would encounter at the time. Fully aerobatic, it could out-maneuver all fighters of the era – if they could catch it.
“The second prototype Ki-15 was purchased by the Asashi Shimbun, a large Tokyo newspaper, as a fast press courier plane, and named Kamikaze-go. It flew a record-breaking flight from Tokyo to London for the coronation of King George VI. Its top speed of 300 mph and trouble-free performance impressed the Western world with the abilities of Japanese aviation.
“Although the record flight was meant as a tribute, its flight might have been an embarrassment to the King because the fastest British aircraft in production at the time was an open-cockpit biplane.”
– At The Field: Offbeat Stories About R/C Model Airplanes and the People Who Fly Them, David P. Andersen, 2004
“A French newspaper had offered a substantial monetary prize for the first aircraft to fly between Paris and Tokyo within 100 hours. Many aviators had failed in the attempt, including André Japy, the French aviator whose plane crashed into the mountains of Kyūshū on the last leg of his record attempt from Paris to Tokyo.
“The Kamikaze-go, a Mitsubishi Ki-15 Karigane aircraft (registration J-BAAI), sponsored by the newspaper Asahi Shimbun, succeeded where others failed. Flight-time from Tokyo to London took 51 hours, 17 minutes and 23 seconds, piloted by Iinuma Masaaki (1912–1941) with Tsukagoshi Kenji (1900–1943) serving as navigator. The flight was the first Fédération Aéronautique Internationale aviation record to have been won by the Japanese.
“This record flight to Europe made the pilot a national hero, and Iinuma was acclaimed as the ‘Japanese Lindbergh’. Both the pilot and navigator were awarded the Légion d’honneur by the French government.”
Cruise speed: 320 km/h (199 mph) at 5,000 m (16,404 ft)
Range: 2,400 km (1,491 mi)
Service ceiling: 11,400 m (37,400 ft)