R.Mikesh, A.Shorzoe Japanese Aircraft, 1910-1941 (Putnam)
Shinzo Morita is credited with having made and flown, in 1911, the first aeroplane to be demonstrated in the heavily populated Kansai area of Japan which includes the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and others. This was only four months after the first flights in Japan, at Tokyo, that were made with imported aeroplanes.
Morita was born on 28 january, 1879, the son of a leather wholesale dealer in Karamono-machi, Higashiku, Osaka. Coming from an affluent family, he was educated by Prof Yukichi Fukuzawa, founder of Keio Gijuku University in Tokyo, and excelled in English and French. He left Japan in 1900 at the age of 21 for eight years' additional study in the United States at a New York university. Later, while in Europe to visit the International Fair in Brussels, he bought a French Gregoire Gyp 45hp engine made in Belgium, and took it with him to Japan in the spring of 1910. With the intention of building an aeroplane for this engine, he rented space at the Osaka Joto Military Parade Grounds.
Obtaining the assistance of draughtsman Mitsuzo Ohnishi and Noboru Tarao and Sensuke Shimizu, they designed an aeroplane based on the Bleriot and Antoinette monoplanes. The Morita had shoulder-mounted wings and a wooden frame fuselage with the rear portion left uncovered. The Gregoire engine was mounted on the nose inverted and partially faired over with an aluminium cowling. The two-wheel undercarriage had short skids to prevent nosing-over upon landing.
The aeroplane was completed in April 1911 and flown for the first time on 24 April. During one of Morita's flights that followed, one of 100m in distance and 3m in altitude, his wingtip grazed a boy who was crossing in front of him on a bicycle. Because of this accident, and having thought at first that he had killed the boy, family pressures persuaded Morita to do no further flying. As a result, he started a model aeroplane business at Matsuyamachi, Osaka, which was the first in the Kansai area. Soon after, he published a book entitled Mokei Hikoki (Model Aeroplane) with Mitsuzo Ohnishi, the first such publication in Japan.
As for the rare and therefore valuable Gregoire aero-engine, it passed from owner to owner, being installed in the aeroplanes of Shigesaburo Torigai, Otojiro Itoh, and Asao Fukunaga helping them to make their names in Japanese aviation.
Single-engine tractor-type shoulder-wing monoplane. Wooden structure with fabric covering. Pilot in open cockpit.
45hp Gregoire Gyp four-cylinder water-cooled inverted inline engine, driving a two-bladed wooden propeller.
Span 9.30m (30ft 6in); length 7.40m (24ft 3 1/4in).
Empty weight 290kg (639.339Ib).
Maximum speed 41 kt (47mph) (calculated figures).
One built in April 1911.