July 4, 2013 7:22:38 PM EDT
Just back from a 2 day jaunt to Hammondsport, New York which is the home of Glenn Curtiss. Curtiss was a contemporary of the Wright Brothers and is one of the fathers of aviation. Our jaunt included a visit to the Glenn Curtiss Museum (http://www.glennhcurtissmuseum.org) and included a tour of their aircraft Restoration Shop. And this is where it gets good!
They are restoring a WWII fighter…a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk! The P-40 has always been a favorite of mine. The plane they are restoring crashed following a mid-air collision while on a training flight over the Florida Everglades in 1943. It spent decades buried in the swamp mud before what was left of it was resurrected a few years ago. Here is a photo of the fuselage that they received (they also have the wings and tail surfaces but they are not visible in this photo):
Here is what a P-40 should look like:
This restoration project will basically be a complete rebuild of the entire aircraft for static display. And here is where it gets REALLY good…the head of the restoration project wants me to join the (volunteer) restoration team!
This aircraft is a total sheet metal aircraft and the skills needed to rebuild it involve the entire compliment of skills that I was trained in and employed during my 4 years as a USMC Aircraft Structural Mechanic. When I first approached the head restoration guy, I asked him how many people come up to him and say that they know what a ‘Cleco’ is (the aircraft had more than a few Cleco’s (Google ‘Cleco fastener’) in it already from the work that they are currently doing on it). He said that no one has ever approached him claiming to know what a Cleco was and I therefore immediately established my credibility with him! I cinched it when I told him I had worked on the Presidents Helicopter (Marine One). He said if I was good enough to work on the Presidents bird, I was good enough to work on his P-40! He then spent the better part of the next 45 minutes giving me a (missing) rivet by (missing) rivet inspection of the entire aircraft, showing me what restoration work they had already done, and what still needed to be done (A LOT!). All the while he was trying to recruit me to join the restoration effort. Hammondsport is 2 hours from where I live. I am debating the logistics of how I would work this into an already overburdened schedule. Stay tuned.
The following graphic is from the Glenn Curtiss Aviation Museum and speaks to their restoration of the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.