Planes of Fame Air Museum
 
Planes of Fame Air Museum
 
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Since the 1970s, the Planes of Fame Air Museum has been actively involved in the restoration to flight of historic aircraft. Many of these aircraft of past years are now among the flying aircraft within the Museum’s collection.

Expert technicians, working as volunteers, have contributed thousands of hours to these efforts. Each project is unique, but all involve meticulous study of photographs, diagrams, plans, and other historical documents to ensure an accurate reconstruction of our flying heritage.

Each component of an aircraft under restoration is carefully inspected and tested. Replacement Parts are sometimes difficult to locate, and in some instances have to be fabricated from scratch. We strive for historical accuracy as much as possible, but always with an eye and ear to safety – our highest priority.

Modern techniques are employed whenever possible, but in many cases, it comes down to the handiwork of a skilled craftsperson to drill, drive, buck and install rivets, reshape or replace a spar, or install a wire harness.

Virtually all aircraft of the Second World War were mass-produced, and the idea that these aircraft would still be flying nearly 80 years later would probably seem strange to the men and women who built them so many years ago. But, through the efforts of Planes of Fame Air Museum volunteers and staff, aircraft that might have forever been lost are resurrected to fly again.

Each project may take years to complete, but the results are more than satisfying. Here are the current restoration projects underway:

Bell YP-59A "Airacomet"

This aircraft is the first jet-powered aircraft developed by the United States. Developed jointly by Bell Aircraft Corporation and the General Electric Company beginning in 1941, the aircraft features two GE turbojet engines on each side of the fuselage, mounted beneath the wings. Intended to be a single-seat fighter aircraft, the prototype XP-59A first flew in October 1942. The Museum’s aircraft is one of thirteen YP-59A aircraft that were developed for extensive testing and evaluation. These tests were conducted in 1944 at Muroc (now Edwards) Air Base in California. The test results were inconclusive, showing that the turbojet engines had inadequate performance and that the aircraft was not a stable enough platform for the .37 mm cannon and three .50-in machine guns housed in the nose.  The Museum acquired this aircraft in 1960.

Project Scope: Complete restoration to flight status. It will be the only flying Airacomet in the world.

Work Performed to Date: Replaced wing spars and overhauled landing gear. Overhauled both engines. Replaced fuel system. Rewired aircraft.

Current Status/Remaining Work: Estimated to be 75 percent complete. The elevator control surfaces need to be re-covered. Cockpit work, including instruments and paint. All systems need to be completed. Extensive flight test.

Estimated Budget to Complete: $100,000 (includes flight test costs)

Target Completion Date: 2022

Boeing B-17G "Flying Fortress"

The aircraft that played a pivotal role in winning the war in Europe, the B-17 is much beloved and recognized symbol of American air power during World War II. Over 12,731 B-17s were constructed. Today, less than a dozen remain that are flyable. The Museum’s B-17G was built by Douglas Aircraft Company in 1945. It arrived too late for combat duty in WWII but served the Air Force in the 1950s as a target drone director aircraft. In this role, it controlled B-17s designated as targets using radio-control. It performed these tasks on several hundred missions in the Central Pacific and in the United States. It has the distinction of flying the last mission of a B-17 for the Air Force. It was subsequently used in movies and television until the mid-1970s.

Project Scope: Complete restoration to flight status. 

Work Performed to Date: All fuselage equipment has been removed for inspection and repair. All control surfaces have been restored. The spars in the vertical stabilizer have been repaired. All paint has been removed from the interior.

Current Status/Remaining Work: Approximately 15 to 20 percent complete. Wings require removal and repair of all spars. All four engines require removal, overhaul, and re-installation. Propellers require renovation. Landing gear to be overhauled. All systems need work to bring to flight condition.

Estimated Budget to Complete: $2,000,000

Target Completion Date: Date to be established when fundraising complete.

Grumman OV-1A "Mohawk"

In early 1956, the Army issued specifications for a battlefield and utility aircraft that carried a crew of a pilot and a technical observer, featured twin turboprop engines for speed and combat survivability; provided armor for crew protection; was capable of short takeoffs and landings on rough airstrips; and was able to fly both daytime and nighttime missions in bad weather. Thus was born the Grumman OV-1 “Mohawk.”

The Museum’s OV-1A is the second production Mohawk off the Grumman assembly line. Its exact military history is undetermined. Aircraft from that initial production batch were first sent to Fort Rucker, Alabama. Some of these were later deployed to West Germany, others to the Republic of South Vietnam. In both locations they served a reconnaissance role for the U.S. Army. Following its military service (circa 1973), this aircraft was used in wing-icing research. It had several owners before the Museum acquired it in 2006.

Project Scope: Complete restoration to flight status.

Work Performed To Date: Inspection and repair as needed.

Current Status/Remaining Work: Estimated 20 percent complete. Replace wings. Electrical system - inspect and repair as necessary. Replace windshields.

Estimated Budget to Complete: $100,000

Target Completion Date: 2022

Hispano HA-1112 M1L “Buchon”

Originally contracted during World War II by the German Messerschmitt company to construct their Bf-109G under license, the Hispano Aviación company lacked the parts necessary to complete the contract. Post-war, when alternative engines and propellers became available, several variants were constructed.

The Museum’s aircraft, an M1L variant, was one of 172 aircraft built using a Rolls Royce Merlin engine and Rotol propeller. This aircraft more than likely flew for the Spanish Air Force in the 1950s in Africa. It was sold into private ownership and because of its close resemblance to a Bf-109, appeared in the film “Battle of Britain” (1969). It was damage shortly afterward in a landing incident. The Museum acquired the aircraft in 1982 and restored it in 1989. It appeared in Battle of Britain segment of the 2001 film “Pearl Harbor.” During the filming, the aircraft suffered a second landing incident.

Project Scope: Complete restoration to flight status.

Work Performed To Date: Air frame inspected and repaired as necessary.

Current Status/Remaining Work: 75 percent complete. Overhaul of engine. Re-installation of engine and fitting of cowling. Finish inspection and tests for return to flight.

Estimated Budget to Complete: $120,000

Target Completion Date: 2020

North American O-47A Observation Aircraft

In 1937, the 0-47A was the first aircraft released by the newly formed North American Aviation. It was the first monoplane observation aircraft deployed by the U.S. Army Air Corps. Of all metal construction, it featured a crew of pilot, observer, and gunner sitting in a tandem arrangement. With a maximum speed of 221 mph, a range of 840 miles, and a service ceiling just over 22,000 feet, the aircraft was a substantial improvement over biplane observation aircraft of the period. One hundred sixty-four 0-47As were built at the newly constructed North American facility in Inglewood, California. However, hampered by its large size and weight (it weighed close to 4 tons), it was deemed too cumbersome in performance. As such, during WWII, the aircraft type was relegated to coastal patrol, submarine spotting, and target towing.

The Museum’s aircraft is actually a composite of two O-47A aircraft both built in 1943 and assigned to coastal patrol. One of these aircraft served as a film stand-in during the 1965 film “Flight of the Phoenix.”

Project Scope: Complete restoration to flight status.

Work Performed To Date: Reskinning of fuselage belly. Reskinning of tail surfaces

Current Status/Remaining Work: Estimated 15 percent complete. Fuselage work continues. Jigs will need to be built in order to repair wings. Engine overhaul and re-installation. Propeller overhaul. Systems work to bring to flight status.

Estimated Budget to Complete: $100,000

Target Completion Date: 2023

Aichi D3A2 Type 99 Carrier Bomber (Allied Code Name: “Val”)

Developed in the late 1930s, the D3A was a low-mounted monoplane aircraft with fixed landing gear capable of take-offs and landings from an aircraft carrier. The D3A was the primary dive-bomber for the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. It featured a crew of two (pilot, gunner) and carried two forward-firing 7.7 mm machine guns and one flexible rear-facing 7.7 mm machine gun. It could carry up to 500lbs. of bombs. Nicknamed the “Val” by the allies, the aircraft participated in the December 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines and by war's end, would have the distinction of sinking more allied warships than any other axis aircraft. The Museum’s D3A2 was recovered in 1968 on the island of Ballae in the South Pacific. It moved to Canada and was restored to flight in 1969. After only a few flights, it was put on display at the Canadian National Aviation Museum. It was acquired by Planes of Fame Air Museum in 1984.

Project Scope: Complete restoration to flight status.

Work Performed To Date: Re-skinned fuselage aft section. Rebuilt tail section (75 percent complete)

Current Status/Remaining Work: Estimated 15 percent complete. Finish tail section. Overhaul engine. Overhaul propeller. Build jigs and overhaul wings. Assemble aircraft and install all systems. Flight test.

Estimated Budget to Complete: $300,000

Target Completion Date: 2025

c-47-skytrain Douglas Aircraft C-47 "Skytrain/Dakota"

In 1936, Douglas Aircraft created the DC-3 passenger aircraft. With the start of the Second World War, the aircraft was modified to become the C-47. By war’s end, nearly 11,000 C-47 aircraft variants were built in Douglas plants in Long Beach, California and Tulsa, Oklahoma. C-47s were even built in Russia and Japan. C-47s were flown primarily by the U.S. Army Air Force and the Royal Air Force, but versions were also flown by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. It flew in all theaters of the war. It could carry cargo of almost every type imaginable, and served as a personnel carrier, casualty evacuation, deployment of paratroops, and for the towing of gliders. On June 6, 1944, more than 1,000 C-47s carried over 24,000 paratroops and gliders across the English Channel.

The Museum acquired the aircraft in 2009 as a kind gift of the Friedkin family. It is a World War II veteran and participated in the D-Day effort by towing gliders into France.

Project Scope: Complete restoration to flight status.

Work Performed To Date: Stripped paint from exterior. Initiated replacement of wing attach brackets. Recovered control surfaces.

Current Status/Remaining Work: Estimated 25 percent complete. Complete wing attach bracket replacement. Overhaul propellers. Install wings. Paint aircraft. Systems test.

Estimated Budget to Complete: $45,000

Target Completion Date: 2020

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