• Freeware Focus: Kazunori Ito

    Freeware Focus: Kazunori Ito

    By Andrew Herd (23 July 2008)

    Freeware developers come in all shapes and sizes. Some do a few addon planes before vanishing into obscurity, some specialize in repaints, some only do panels, some stick to a particular period, a few (a very few) get into doing addon scenery, others code up half a dozen planes and then devote more time than they should to upgrading them as each new version of Flight Simulator is released. In general, if you do a search on a developer's name, you will pull up a couple of dozen pages on FlightSim.Com's search menu, but in Kazunori Ito's case, you get over seventy.

    And that is only going back to 2002 - okay, I will agree that many of the files on those search pages are repaints, but when you get down to counting individual planes, it becomes clear that Mr. Ito is one-of-a-kind. If you knock out all the repaints, there are more original models than I care to count, which is particularly amazing when you consider that the first files we have from Kazunori date from 2002 and the most recent one to March 2008. Over that six year period, Mr.Ito has authored, or co-authored dozens of aircraft addons, covering every period from World War II to the far-off future, most of them for FS2002/FS2004.

    The star of this Freeware Focus is 54 years old and describes himself as a 'leisure vetinarian', which I guess means a retired vet. Kazunori Ito started off making plastic models of planes when he was a boy, but then had the misfortune to suffer deteriorating eyesight, which meant that he couldn't build models anymore - but he discovered that he could use a computer to generate 3D models instead, which is how he got started off in flight simulation. Mr. Ito is a visual model specialist and by his own admission he doesn't understand flight dynamics well, but he has provided a real feast of planes, with a special emphasis on the rare and the unusual. The bad news is that it is possible that we may have seen the best of what Kazunori is going to produce, because his left eye has got much worse in the past year and, although otherwise in good health, his vision has become a serious problem.

    The first plane Kazunori Ito contributed was a Boeing X-32A (x32atest.zip), uploaded as a test version in January 2003 - it kind of worked but had a deal of appeal and ended up being downloaded over a thousand times. He followed this up with a fully-featured F-101 (f101bcrf.zip), which was downloaded nearly 7000 times and topped that with a General Dynamics WB-57F (wb-57f.zip), which was downloaded over 8000 times and got a developer's award. After that came a slew of Super Sabres, starting with an F-100D (f100d950.zip), which between them went well over the ten thousand download mark and then more century series fighters, including an F-101. The best of these was an F-106A Delta Dart for FS2002 (f-106a.zip), which was downloaded nearly 2500 times in its orginal version and 12000 times overall, when you add in the F-16B version, a bug fix and the extraordinary Convair XF2Y-1 Sea Dart version (xf2y1_sd.zip), which, science fiction though it might appear to be, was actually built, flew and fulfilled all that was required of it, the only problem being that there wasn't much demand for a seaplane jet fighter even in the fifties. The whole project ended up getting cancelled, but several hulls survive. I guess that few readers can remember back that far, but the Sea Dart concept made more sense in a time when it wasn't thought at all remarkable to build amphibious automobiles and then paint them pink.

    After the Dart came an F-104J, developed in partnership with Simone Prattico', Erick Cantu, JR, Manolo Machuca Medina, Jim Johnson, Gianfranco Michele (f104j2k2.zip) and a Fairchild Republic T-46A Egret (t-46a.zip). How many people have heard of the T-46A? Not many, I guess, but one of the things about Kazunori Ito is that he has never been afraid of developing simulations of planes that appeal to him, rather than going for stuff that has been done a hundred times before and will be done a hundred times again. One of the most appealing features of freeware is that it lets developers bring out planes that wouldn't be viable in the commercial market and some real gems have emerged over the years - okay, so you have to accept some compromises here and there, but these guys ain't getting paid and often put more time and attention into their addons than commercial developers do. An F-4 appeared in the fall of 2003 (f-4e493.zip), with all kinds of variants following.

    You ever heard of the Junkers EF-112? Nope, neither had I, but Kazunori Ito released a sim of it in the spring of 2004 (ju_ef112.zip). The EF-112 was a push-me-pull-you powered by a pair of 1460 hp DB 603s submitted as a potential ground-attack aircraft by Junkers in late 1942. It was capable of 472 mph carrying a thousand pound bomb load, but the RLM showed no interest in this striking twin-boom project and it lay, more or less forgotten, until Kazunori's roving eye lit upon it and made it fly for us. The EF-112 is a really good example of a plane that would undoubtedly make sense as a commercial addon project, were it not for rampant piracy and simmers' conservative tendencies, which account for why we see endless Cessnas when we could be flying the virtual skies in the stuff of dreams. Kazunori Ito is not afraid to dream.

    Other unusual projects from this developer's keyboard are his Messerschmitt Wespe, a turbojet fighter that never got off the drawing board (me_wespe.zip), Blohm & Voss P.194 (bv_p194.zip) and Junkers 187 (junk_187.zip) all of which were inspired by the Luft '46 website, which is a treasure trove of facts relating to stillborn German Second World War secret aircraft projects. There were some quite amazing planes under consideration by the Luftwaffe before the final defeat and it is interesting to see how many of them incorporated swept wings, showing how far ahead German designers were of their Allied counterparts as far as compressibility was concerned. If you fly any of the simulations from Kazunori's Luft '46 group, you might wonder how Germany managed to lose the war, if it had so many advanced planes on the drawing board, but the Germans lacked the resources to build them, thanks to lack of raw materials caused by the Allied strategic bombing campaign. In the end, time was wasted developing planes like the rocket powered Me 163 when it would have been better spent on producing conventional fighters like the 109. And no, there isn't an Ito 163, although he has done a rather good Me 410 (me410_he.zip).

    Go back to 2002 and Kazunori went into a different space-time continuum, near enough, with a series of fantasy sims based on Japanese animation movies, including the Space Battleship Yamato (s_yamato.zip), the space battleship Arcadia (arcadia.zip), an unmissable 'Flaptter' from the Dola family's airship (flaptter.zip), a flying castle (howl_ctl.zip) which for some reason only got downloaded 440 times, despite being much more interesting than the constant drip-feed of 737s we get, a flying steam loco (ge999d51.zip), a stunning spaceship called the Falken (adf01fal.zip) and most recently, the SHADO Sky One Skydiver fighter (skydiver1.zip) from Gerry Anderson's UFO series. There are 31 in all in the science fiction animation series and there isn't a boring Boeing in it anywhere (-:

    Don't think that Kazunori only specializes in the outlandish and the experimental, because he has a great line in forgotten warbirds, including the Blackburn Roc, a turret-armed fighter that was designed to do everything, but turned out to be considerably less than the sum of its parts, not that prevented it taking part in some celebrated actions (b25roc_i.zip); a sim of a plane that turned out to be too clever to be useful - the Heinkel 177 (he177_hm.zip); a Blohm & Voss BV-138 (bv138_ac.zip); and a SAAB J21R (j21r_n7.zip), a sim of a twin-boom jet-powered Swedish fighter from the late '40s. You do not see many of those around. Another great sim from this man is his Westland Whirlwhind (whirl_w1.zip), a neat twin-engined piston fighter that did everything that was asked of it, but had the misfortune to be condemned to obscurity by the de Havilland Mosquito; and then there is his Macchi MC.200 (mc200362.zip), which is one of the few sims of any Macchi designs around. One of Kazunori's best 'forgotten warbirds' is his Fairey Barracuda Mk. V (barrac_v.zip), which is a sim of a plane that was designed to replace the Fairey Swordfish, but ended up being outlived by its predecessor.

    If you must insist on only flying sims of planes that you have actually heard of, what about Kazunori's AT-6G (at6g_216.zip), his McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk (a4c_403.zip) and his Martin Marlin (sp5bvp40.zip) There are more - I have only scratched the surface here, guys. Although the vast majority of the planes are for FS2002 or FS2004, Marks Rooks and others have upgraded several of the packages so that they are FSX compatible and I have illustrated some of those in the screenshots.

    Freeware Focus is designed to showcase developers who give their time for nothing, so that other simmers can enjoy their dreams. You hear all kinds of bad things written about what the 'net has done to society and when I do, I always point to FS freeware and say, well, there's the evidence that there is good in this sometimes bad old world of ours. But there are also times when I wonder why freeware developers keep hammering away at their keyboards, when the only thanks most of them get is the occasional 'thank you' by email - and 99% of simmers who download their products don't even have the grace to do that, which is the reason why Nels and I started this series. Each piece takes a while to research and write, but that is nothing compared to pains someone like Kazunori takes to code a single plane and the only thing I can say to him is 'I wish there were more like you.' Bear in mind that this enormous library of files has been contributed by people who posted their efforts so that folk they will never meet can enjoy themselves without having to pay a cent. So do yourself the favor of searching the file libraries with the single word 'Ito' in the text box and see how powerful three letters can be.

    Ito. All you need as a passport to weeks of entertainment. Gratis.

    Andrew Herd
    [email protected]

    Find all Kazunori Ito original aircraft
    Find all Kazunori Ito related files

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