The Last of a Breed – A Decade of Piloting the Last Flying Grumman Panther

By: Thomas Reilly

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Arthur Alan Wolk’s Grumman F9F-2 Panther BuNo. 123072 Photo Credit: Arthur Alan Wolk

Arthur Alan Wolk is an accomplished pilot and Philadelphia attorney.  As the founding partner of the Wolk Law Firm, which specializes in aviation law and in improving air safety, his two great passions are woven together.  This is his story…

Mr. Wolk’s involvement in the Warbird community began in 1984 with the purchase of a Korean War era Grumman F9F-2 Panther jet fighter.  He says, “I had been a pilot for many years and was interested in flying a Warbird…the Panther became available for sale due to the death of its owner and so I acquired (it)”.  At the time this was the only airworthy F9F Panther flying in the world. The aircraft was pieced together using airworthy parts from other F9F airframes in order to piece together one airworthy jet.  

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Arthur Wolk’s Grumman F9F-2 Panther in flight.

“I had an F9F -2 Panther,” says Mr. Wolk.  “The -2 Panther was the low powered version, so it only had 5,000lbs of thrust.  It only remained in Korea and on the ship about six months and it was succeeded by the -5 Panther which had about 6,200lbs of thrust and a larger tail.  It was not a totally different animal but, a much better airplane for the use that was intended, a carrier based ground support fighter. The Panther for me was great because it was very easy to fly, not complicated, and you could understand how really young and inexperienced pilots could fly it safely”.

The F9F Panther is a single seat jet fighter and because of this Mr. Wolk had to do his training in other models of jet aircraft.  This is unique because typically a pilot would training and receive instruction in the type of aircraft that they would be flying solo for the first time.  This is especially true for a pilot making their first solo flight in a jet aircraft but, the Panther did not allow for this. Mr. Wolk initially began training in a De Havilland Vampire with a friend instructing him however, circumstances did not allow him to solo the Vampire before flying the Panther.  Mr. Wolk says with excitement in his voice, my first flight in the Panther was my first solo flight in a jet fighter”. He continues, “It was one of the most harrowing experiences of my life!”. Mr. Wolk explains, “It was a very unfamiliar airplane to me.  All of the things I was unfamiliar with for example: the very high weight, the very significant change in the way it flew depending on how much power you used, the incredible fuel consumption. But, very quickly, within a few hours it became really very easy to fly”.

Mr. Wolk’s preparation for his Panther solo is unique.  He says, “basically the way I learned how to fly it was Grumman’s chief test pilot, who was at Edwards Air Force base at the time, spoke to me on the phone for about an hour before I flew it and relying on his advice and my own flying experience it became not as big a deal as one would think. Remember every airplane is nothing but a machine.  It flies by numbers so, if you’re disciplined to fly by numbers there isn’t any airplane you can’t fly, right?”.

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Arthur Wolk’s F9F-2 Panther taxis with wings folded.

After gaining his qualifications and his type certificate in the Panther, Mr. Wolk gradually moved into performing a Panther routine on the airshow circuit.  He recalls the flight characteristics of the F9F-2 Panther, fondly noting that the significant difference between the Panther and other jet aircraft is the effect of power.  Mr. Wolk explains that, “the aircraft was very sensitive to power adjustments”. He recalls that he always flew that Panther at 92 or 93 percent power. He continues his analysis of the Panther by saying, “I would not call it lively on the controls, it was kinda sluggish. It did have hydraulically boosted ailerons but, other than that it was just pushrods and cables and things like that.  It was a fairly primitive airplane for a jet. It was very much like the Grumman propeller airplanes that it succeeded, and it was a jet in the sense that only the powerplant was really different, everything is pretty much the same”. The most significant characteristic however he says was the fuel consumption of the aircraft. The F9F, Mr. Wolk recalls, consumed fuel rapidly and because of this, fuel planning was the most critical responsibility of the pilot.  Mr. Wolk says, “I always used about 500 nautical miles as my benchmark and that was if the airplane was fitted out with its six five inch rockets and two five-hundred pound bombs. I mean, without those it had probably another couple hundred mile range”. In cruise, with the rockets and bombs on the wing, the configuration he usually flew in, the Panther could fly at 380 knots and could fly at 425 knots if the weapons were removed.

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An Eclipse 500 jet similar to what Arthur Wolk currently flies.

Mr. Wolk, who now flies an Eclipse jet, describes the Panther as, “a fighting machine that happened to land and takeoff from aircraft carriers.  It was just designed to be relatively easy to fly, be able to carry a combat load, and dispense it and get back to the ship and be able to be strong enough to withstand the beating that, in those days, a carrier landing required”. The Panther, was originally designed to land on straight deck carriers, called “through deck” carriers, and on those carriers there would be airplanes on the far end, there would be a barrier kind of like a big net and there would be the arresting wires at the back of the ship.  Obviously you couldn’t land like a real airplane lands or like they currently land otherwise you would be into the barrier and into the airplanes up front. So what would happen is, in the Panther and all aircraft of that vintage, you would approach the ship at an appropriate speed an altitude and the landing signal officer would give you an engine cut, which would be a flag that he would wave horizontally that would indicate to you to cut the power and you literally drop in from 18 feet. So, the airplane had to be really strong and the Panther was extremely strong”.

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An F9F-2 assigned to VF-21 prepares to trap on the USS Midway in 1952 after flying a sortie over Korea. Photo Credit: U.S. Navy

Arthur Wolk has experienced the short field characteristics of the F9F Panther first hand.  He explains that with full fuel tanks, and all of the armament on the aircraft, on a hot day the panther requires approximately 6,000 feet of runway. “You can cut that down a little bit by nursing the airplane aloft”, he says, “but, I think I went into 4,000 maybe, which would have been at the Marine Corps Museum at Quantico, Virginia. That was the shortest field I ever got into or out of.  I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone”, he says humbly. It is important to highlight that, at the time of this flight, Mr. Wolk had been flying the Panther for many years and logged hundreds of hours in the cockpit of the F9F. “I knew the airplane like an old shoe by that time so, I knew when it would fly and how it would fly”, Mr. Wolk says. “Basically, I only flew it half full of fuel so I knew I could get off the ground in 4,000 feet”.

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Arthur Alan Wolk sits in the cockpit of his Grumman F9F-2 Panther jet fighter. Photo Credit: EFP Network

“The Panther was unique in a lot of respects”, says Mr. Wolk.  “First of all, it was the only one flying. It was a very beautiful airplane, very easy to fly (extremely easy to fly), it was a nice airshow airplane.  I did have to have a full time mechanic so that was an issue but, there wasn’t anything unusual about its mechanical features so it wasn’t difficult to keep it maintained.  Comparing it to other airplanes, it’s probably more exciting to fly than most although, I fly an Eclipse jet now and in terms of excitement and utility you know the Eclipse jet is much better. In total, Mr. Wolk has logged nearly 350 hours in the F9F-2 Panther. “I think I had more time in the F9F-2 than anybody in the military did.  11 years, I mean nobody in the military flew it for 11 years”, says Mr. Wolk.

Most warbird enthusiasts will admit to being envious of men like Arthur Alan Wolk who have the opportunity to fly unique and historic airframes.  Although it is true that when Mr. Wolk flew his F9F -2 Panther, he was the only one in the sky, we must also remember that the spectators at eleven years of air shows were able to see living history and experience his historic aircraft in a way that without his efforts would otherwise not have been possible.  Thanks for the ride, Mr. Wolk.

Proudly Sponsored by TCR Watches USA 

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Return of the “Meat Chopper”

meatchopper6The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) owns a Republic P-47N Thunderbolt painted as “Lil’ Meaties Meat Chopper”.  The original “Meat Chopper”  served with the 464th FS/507th FG based on Ie Shima in 1945.  In 2002 , the CAF’s P-47 was involved in an accident.  The aircraft caught on fire during a maintenance test flight and made and emergency landing at Albuquerque International Airport in New Mexico where it had taken off from not long before. (See NTSB report)  The aircraft was substantially damaged and subsequently placed in storage for many years.

This year as a part of the CAF’s 12 Planes of Christmas Campaign, they announced that meatchopper5they were holding a fundraising campaign for this P-47.  The CAF’s goal is to conduct further structural surveys of this Thunderbolt to determine what it will need for its return to flight.  “…Tremendous work has been completed in restoring the aircraft to flying condition, with the fuselage repaired, a new canopy and windshield fitted, the control surfaces rebuilt and painted, and a replacement wing located and purchased.”

Donate to help this Meat Chopper get back in the air and honor those who fought for our freedom!

Photo Credit: Commemorative Air Force (CAF)

Project Cutlass Vought F7U Restoration

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The front end of Vought F7U Cutlass BuNo 129554 in storage at Paine Field. Photo Credit: Al Casby

A Vought F7U Cutlass restoration is on its way to fly again one day, thanks to the efforts of Project Cutlass.  Al Casby is the owner of two F7U Cutlass airframes, which are BuNo 129622 and BuNo 129554.  Mr. Casby has owned 622 since the early 1980’s, but it is a “badly damaged partial aircraft, usable for parts only”, he recently acquired 544 which previously belonged to Tom Cathcart and is currently stored at Paine Field in Washington State.  Mr. Casby hopes to bring 544 from Paine Field to Phoenix, Arizona to begin the restoration that he has been waiting to carry out for 44 years.   This is no easy task.  With a 21 foot width, and a high tail height, transportation is a difficult task. The aircraft cannot be completely disassembled without risking compromising the integrity of the airframe.  Mr. Casby stated, “Vought strongly suggested that neither the tails or the center-section wings ever be removed from the aircraft, going so far as to implore that should that need arise the airframe should be stricken.  There is no corrosion noted anywhere that would indicate a need for removal of these, so I do not want to remove them just to effect transport.” Have no fear, these challenges will definitely be overcome.  Check back soon for more updates!

If you know of a transportation company that would be willing to donate their time to help Project Cutlass’ efforts please contact us!

The project recently acquired a complete lighting set for the Cutlass in New Old Stock condition.  Some things that the Mr. Casby is looking for consist of:

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The back end of Vought F7U Cutlass BuNo 129554 in storage at Paine Field. Photo Credit: Al Casby

-Parts or components bearing a CV10- part number prefix

-Any Westinghouse J-46 engine parts or components

-F7U-3/-3M canopy perspex and windscreen plexiglass panels

-BF Goodrich G-3-721-2 wheel (1)

-Goodyear 9531077 wheel (2)

-Goodyear 9530987 Brake Assy (2)
Please contact us if you know of or are in possession of any of these parts or of any F7U Cutlass parts and help get this rare jet back in the sky.

Wooden Wonder Down Under

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Mosquito TV959 nearing completion at Avspecs in New Zealand

The Flying Heritage Collection, owned by Paul Allen-of Microsoft fame-is preparing to welcome a new aircraft to the collection.  The aircraft is a De Havilland Mosquito TV959.  TV959 was built at the Leavesden De Havilland factory in the U.K. and delivered to the RAF in 1945.   After fifty year of absence, this Mosquito is getting ready to take back to the skies.

Mosquito TV959 was built in August 1945, too  late to see combat.  From 1945 to 1963 this

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Mosquito TV959 prior to restoration.

aircraft was transferred through 12 squadrons in the RAF.  At the completion of its military service it appeared in the film Squadron 633 before being placed on display at the Imperial War Museum.  In 1992 TV959 was purchased by The Fighter Collection in Duxford  and a restoration to airworthy condition commenced.  Almost 25 years later, TV959 is now owned by Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage Collection in Everett, Washington and its restoration is nearing completion at Avspecs Ltd. in New Zealand.

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Jerry Yagen’s Mosquito KA114 at the Mid Atlantic Air Museum’s WWII Weekend 2016.

Avspecs Ltd. restored Jerry Yagen’s Mosquito KA114, which was completed in April 2013.  TV959 will be the second Mosquito restoration to roll out of the Avspecs shop. .  The Warbird Watcher will be standing by with updates on Mosquito TV959’s first flight following its completion.

 

 

 

Photo Credit:

-Avspecs Ltd.

-The Reilly Collection

History courtesy of Warbird Registry

 

 

 

 

 

Curtiss P-40E 41-13570

p-40e41-13570This P-40E is headed to Pioneer Aero in New Zealand for restoration work.  Pioneer Aero has announced that it will be arriving at their shop in mid September.

Some information on the recovery and condition of this P-40E from lend lease aircraft: “The P-40E was recovered from its watery grave of 55 years on 31 August 1997. Although the lake was relatively shallow, the aircraft was brought to the surface using flotation gear and gradually brought to the shore. In shallower water the tail plane and fin were removed along with the ammunition boxes and covers to the wings. The P40-E seemed remarkably complete and well-preserved.  The only effects from the water seemed to be corrosion to the ferrous elements. For example, the metal handles for the ammunition boxes had rusted away. Likewise, the magnesium cam covers and items on the rear of the Allison engine had literally dissolved to nothing. The wheel hubs that appeared to have been protected more by the silt looked to be intact and the tires were still inflated.”

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Information Sources and Photo Credits:

http://lend-lease.airforce.ru/english/articles/sheppard/p40recovery/

Pioneer Aero


Great News From the Collings Foundation

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Former Evergreen Aviation Museum’s B-17G 44-83785 “Shady Lady” in flight.   It has joined the Collings Foundation and will return to the sky again in 2017. Photo Credit: Evergreen Aviation Museum

The Collings Foundation has just released exciting news.  They have acquired a number of aircraft from the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.  The aircraft include a second B-17G for their collection “Shady Lady”, a P-38L Lightning, a Bf-109 G-10, and  a second P-40 Warhawk.

The Collings Foundation plans to have the Evergreen B-17 flyable by 2017. There will not be two B-17’s on the Wings of Freedom Tour, but rather will give the foundation ample time to do necessary work on their B-17G “Nine-O-Nine”, that they are not able to preform due to time constraints on tour. This is the same idea that the Collings Foundation had in mind when they purchased a TF-51D Mustang restoration project not too long ago.  The TF-51D when completed will take the place of the foundation’s TP-51C “Betty Jane” while necessary work is done on it.

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The Collings Foundation’s newly acquired P-38 Lightning. Photo Credit: Evergreen Aviation Museum

The Collings Foundation also acquired a beautifully restored Lockheed P-38L Lightning with very flight time logged since its restoration.  Although the Collings Foundation, currently has its hands full with restoration projects, the plan is to have this P-38 flying sometime in 2016.  In order to get it airworthy again, Rob Collings President of the Collings Foundation says that, “the P-38 will undergo some mechanical rehabilitation, just from sitting so long, and also some cosmetic…”, work to bring it to modern Warbird standards.  Also to add some of the finishing touches, that were not previously applied. Mr. Collings also annouced, that the P-38 when completed will wear a natural metal finish.  Mr. Collings finally announced that there are no plans to install a second seat, that this P-38 will remain a single seat aircraft.

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Collings Foundaton’s new Bf-109 -10, it formerly belonged to the Evergreen Aviation Museum. Photo Credit: Warbird Registry

Also from the Evergreen Aviation Museum the Collings Foundation also acquired a Messerschmitt Bf-109 G-10.  The foundation has “…not decided whether or not it will be a flyable aircraft”, says Mr. Collings, due to some issues it has.  Reagrdless its restoration will be completed.

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A Curtiss P-40K Warhawk , formerly owned by the Evergreen Aviation Museum, now owned by the Collings Foundation. Photo Credit: Evergreen Aviation Museum

The Collings Foundation’s final aircraft that it acquired from the Evergreen Aviation Museum was a P-40K Warhawk, which is likely to fly again in the future.

Stay tuned for a complete report on Collings Foundation’s aircraft restorations, coming soon.

Check out the original interview with Rob Collings by our friends over at WarbirdRadio.com here

The Warbird Watcher Recognized By Connecticut Air And Space Center

 

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Steve Ferraro, part of the T-33 Crew, posing with the new gear door. Photo Credit: Connecticut Air and Space Center

Thank you to our friends at Connecticut Air and Space Center for your shout out with regard to the gear door, we helped locate for your TV-2 Seastar.  Pretty cool, that you guys were able to acquire one after nearly 15 years of searching. One step closer to completion. Keep up the good work.

Donate or get involved at the Connecticut Air and Space Center help save history!

 

P-38H Lightning 42-66534 Project For Sale

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Visit Platinum Fighters for more information about the sale:http://www.platinumfighters.com/#!lockheed-p-38h-1/masterpage_27

For some history on the aircraft:http://pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/p-38/42-66534.html