The period between World Wars allowed aircraft builders and pilots the chance to set and break many aerial records. Advancements in technology and construction practices were key contributing factors that, when tied to the bravery of airmen and women, allowed all-new heights to be reached. In 1937, a local Japanese newspaper paired with a Mitsubishi Ki-15 to fly from the Japanese Islands to the United Kingdom in a much-publicized long distance journey. Not to be outdone, the Asahi Shinbun, another local newspaper in Japan, commissioned for a similar feat when it sponsored an aircraft to make the dangerous route from Japan to Europe. The endeavor ultimately held several goals - to serve as a local propaganda device, to strengthen ties with its Axis partners, and to drive development of long-range technologies for possible use in future Imperial Japanese Army Air Force (IJAAF) aircraft.
Researchers at the Aeronautical Research Institute of the University of Tokyo - an establishment founded as far back as 1877 - helped to lay the foundation for the aircraft's design with support from engineers at Tachikawa. Tachikawa Hikoki KK builders then constructed the machine as a well-streamlined monoplane airplane with rounded fuselage, single tail fin, pressurized cabin, and retractable undercarriage. The team eyed the end of 1941 for their first flight though fortunes changed when the Empire of Japan attacked the U.S. Navy's chief Pacific station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7th, 1941 - pitting Japan into total war with the United States and its allies. This shelved the promising long-distance endeavor for the interim as resources and manpower were now completely redirected to the Japanese war effort.
In July of 1942, an Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.75 made its way from Italy to Japan by way of the Soviet Union and China to strengthen ties with its Axis ally. In turn, this prompted the Japanese to rekindle their interest in a long-distance flight out west - though avoiding Soviet airspace at all costs due to a poor relationship between the two regional powers. Tachikawa completed the aircraft under the designation of "Ki-77" and a first flight was completed on November 18th, 1942.
The flight revealed a bevy of deficiencies that grounded the initial prototype for some time. During this lull, Tachikawa moved on constructing another aircraft to the same specifications which produced what would become just the second of two total prototypes for the Ki-77 line. With a crew selected and trained for the adventure ahead, and some of the more major issues ironed out in the aircraft, the flight was formally launched on July 7th, 1943 from an airstrip in Singapore.
As it was, Allied intelligence had been alerted through German communications of the long distance flight and were promptly dispatched to meet the journeying Ki-77. It is believed that the Japanese flight was doomed by their run in with the British who dispatched the unprotected enemy aircraft somewhere over the Indian Ocean. The Tachikawa aircraft carried a crew of eight including three Army officers personnel.
The second Ki-77 was utilized in a record-setting long distance attempt from 1944 onwards which it unofficially managed over Japanese controlled territories prior to the end of the war. At the time of the Japanese surrender in August of 1945, the Ki-77 has survived the Allied bombing campaign and thus taken over by the Americans to which it was transport stateside for inspection during 1946 before being dismantled and scrapped. As such, the Tachikawa Ki-77 fell into aviation history without much fanfare to its name.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
General transport functionality to move supplies/cargo or personnel (including wounded and VIP) over range.
✓X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.
50.2 ft (15.30 m)
96.8 ft (29.50 m)
12.6 ft (3.85 m)
15,961 lb (7,240 kg)
36,872 lb (16,725 kg)
+20,911 lb (+9,485 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Tachikawa Ki-77 production variant)
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