European engineers who helped develop the Japanese aircraft industry in its early days.

(Posted on April 12, 2023)


World War I precipitated a tremendous advancement in aircraft, only a decade or so after the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers in 1903. Japan, in its part, started importing and manufacturing under license European aircraft, mostly French models such as the Nieuport and Spad machines. This was soon followed by designing Japan’s own aircraft with the help of European engineers. I would like to focus on two such engineers: Andrea Marei from Nieuport of France and Richard Vogt from Dornier of Germany. 


This is a Type 91 fighter adopted by the Japanese army in 1931. It was designed by Andrea Marei with the assistance of Koyama Yasushi of Nakajima Aircraft Co. In all, 444 machines were manufactured by the company. The Type 91 was powered by a 520 hp engine, achieving a maximum speed of 320 km/h. Koyama became the chief designer of Nakajima’s fighters during World War II. After the war, Koyama refrained from working in the aircraft industry again; instead, he found the new engineering domain of developing forestry machinery.




This is a Type 92 fighter for the Japanese army. It was designed by Richard Voght (1894-1979) and manufactured by Kawasaki Aircraft Co. The type 92 was powered by a 630 hp engine; the maximum speed was 355 km/h, 385 machines were manufactured by the company. Voght taught aircraft engineering to Kawasaki’s Doi Takeo, who became the chief designer for the company. Voght returned to Germany and designed various aircraft for the Luftwaffe: some of which are shown below.





The Bv138Flying boat 




                                                                      The Bv141 asymmetrical aircraft

After the war, Voght moved to the US, where he worked for the US Air Force and then Boeing’s research and testing division. 







Richard Voght on the right





Like Koyama of Nakajima, Doi designed various fighters for the army during the war; he participated in the development of the twin turbo prop YS-11 airliner (below) after the war. 




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