During a recent visit to Adelaide in South Australia I couldn’t miss revisiting the Classic Jets Fighter Museum at Parafield Airport to catch up on their restoration of a very rare Vought F4U-1 Corsair (Bu. 02270) which is one of only two early “birdcage canopy” Corsairs in existence. It was the 124th example produced by Vought.
In 1944 this F4U-1 was flying with the United States Marine Corps inMarine Fighter Attack Squadron 321 (VMF-321) “Hells Angels“. On May 5th, 1944 pilot Captain James Vittitoe was returning from a bomber escort training mission but after 4 hours and 12 minutes of flying and low on fuel, he and two other pilots in F4U’s had to force land into a salt water lagoon near the island of Efate in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) in the South Pacific. The guns and any reusable parts from the Corsair were removed after the incident and then the aircraft sat in shallow water for the next 65 years heavily exposed to the elements, vandalised and often raided by souvenir hunters.
By 2009 just the heavily corroded centre section, engine and the entire wing remained in salvageable condition (the rest of the fuselage had been cut away by someone years before hand and was long gone). Although corroded, many useful parts could be used in the restoration of this Corsair. Bob Jarrett the director of Classic Jets Fighter Museum made suitable arrangements with the owner of the land where the wreck sat and the Vanuatu government to recover the wreck and ship it to Parafield Airport.
I first saw the makings of this Corsair restoration project in February 2011. Back then it was just sectional components of the airframe, much of it still corroded (including the wings) and other sections were refabricated including airframe skin and parts to replace those too badly corroded, damaged or missing.
I was pleased to see the great restoration progress that had been made by April 2017 (see my earlier post here). Now, over a year later, a number of visible updates are immediately noticeable including the addition of the undercarriage, the cockpit windshield frame and small sections of the forward airframe skin.
The engine cowling and restored Pratt & Whitney R2800 Double Wasp 18 cylinder radial engine are currently displayed in front of the airframe. Nearby you will find the restored cockpit interior and control panel in a mockup display.
The static restoration was intended to be a 10 year project. At the current rate of work, the 2019 target date is looking on track.