A Helldiver Story- The National Air and Space’s Museum’s Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver

nasmhelldiver

The National Air and Space Museum’s Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver.

Every Warbird has stories to tell.  The National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Chantilly, Virginia has many aircraft with enormous history.  From the Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” which was made famous for dropping the first ever atomic bomb, to the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird the top secret stealth strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed in the 1960’s, every turn at the NASM opens a door to the past.  One such aircraft in the collection, the Curtiss Helldiver, is no exception.  It is one of the newest restorations completed at NASM, and the first aircraft to be restored at the world-class Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar.The Curtiss Helldiver’s story begins in 1939 when it was ordered by the U.S. Navy, to replace the Vought SB2U Vindicator.  The Helldiver’s first flight took place on December 18, 1940, and  the prototype was lost eight days later due to stability issues.  The first production Helldivers rolled of the new Curtiss aircraft plant in Columbus, Ohio in June of 1942.  Although the Helldiver was in production, it encountered many issues during carrier trials in the beginning of 1943, most of which ended in crashes.  This earned the Helldiver respectable nicknames such as the “Big Tailed Bastard” and  “the Ensign Killer”.  In spite of its rough beginnings, the Helldiver played major roles in the Battle of the Philippines and the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

At the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Helldiver which NASM’s recreates the one flown by Lt. Donald D. Engen.  Lt. Engen sank the Japanese carrier the Zuikaku during the battle.  Engen would later go on to be awarded the Navy Cross for his role in the sinking of the Japanese Battleship Hyuga, during which he was forced to fly under the bow of the ship after dropping his ordinance on it.  Engen also played a role in the sinking of the Japanese heavy cruiser Nachi.  Donald Engen retired from the U.S. Navy as a vice admiral and became an FAA executive, before becoming the Director of the National Air and Space Museum.  Shortly thereafter he was tragically killed in a glider accident in the summer of 1999.

SB2C-5-curtiss-employee-cadettes2-jb040114

Curtiss Cadettes, Betty Maskett and Jackie Davis standing in front of the National Air and Space Museum’s freshly restored Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver which they helped build during WWII.

After a complete restoration, the National Air and Space Museum’s Helldiver rolled out of the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar painted in Donald Engen’s Helldiver’s paint scheme in spring of 2014, 15 years after his death.  In attendance at the unveiling ceremony were two Curtiss Cadettees.  The two women, Betty Maskett and Jackie Davis, worked for Curtiss Aircraft.  Betty Maskett’s job was empenage manufacturing and Jackie Davis was in charge of quality control during WWII, while the men were off at war.  In fact, Betty and Jackie helped to build the museum’s Helldiver 70 years before at the Curtiss Factory.  A moment of history captured in the making!

Historical Side Note:

nasmhelldiveroriginal

Original U.S. Navy Helldiver in VB-92 to carry ‘208’ markings, shortly before in crashed into the Pacific Ocean after overshooting the arresting wire on the carrier deck or a wire break on landing

This Curtiss Helldiver is the original Helldiver in VB-92 to carry the markings of ‘208’.  It is assumed that the pilot overshot the arresting wire on the deck, or it broke on landing.  The National Air and Space Museum’s Helldiver was the replacement aircraft for the one above.  This fact was confirmed by Scott Wiley one of the restoration experts at the museum that helped to restore this Helldiver.

helldiverresotration

National Air and Space Museum, Curtiss Helldiver. Restoration full speed ahead, March 12, 2014 -The Reilly Collection

Historical Credit:

-National Air and Space Museum

-The Nation’s Hangar- Aircraft Treasures of the Smithsonian (Pages 124-125)

-Scott Wiley- Docent and Restoration Expert at the National Air and Space Musuem

Photo Credit:

-National Air and Space Museum

-John Bretschneider (Navy Times)

-U.S. Navy

-The Reilly Collection

 

*This article was originally posted on The Warbird Watcher on May 17, 2015

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)

Collings Foundation Welcomes New TF-51 Mustang

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Collings Foundation welcomed this TF-51D  named “Toulouse Nuts” back to the skies over Florida with the the help of American Aero Services in New Symrna Beach.  “Toulouse Nuts” will be joining the Wings of Freedom Tour and will be available for rides across the U.S.  For more information about the restoration process check out: “Whats new at the Collings Foundation”

Photo Credit: Mike Ligosh

New SBD For USMC Museum

12715752_10153572055422880_2483914366204617610_nThe National Museum of the United States Marine Corps recently added a Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless to their collection of aircraft.  This Dauntless was recovered from the bottom of Lake Michigan, where it sank after a carrier qualification incident aboard the USS Wolverine in 1943.  The restoration was carried out by the National Marine Corps Museum’s restoration team, along with Century Aviation.  This is a great addition to an already world class museum.  The museum is currently closed for renovations and is scheduled to reopen in April 2016.  Further additions to the museum are set to be completed by 2017.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For more information visit National USMC Museum’s website and check them out on Facebook

Photo Credit: National Museum of the United States Marine Corps

 

Battle of Britain Spitfire Headed to Austrailia for Restoration

cespit4

Spitfire Mk. IXb MH415 Photo Credit: Platinum Fighters Sales

Vickers built Spitfire Mk IXb  MH415, featured in the 1969 film Battle of Britain, has been sold by Platinum Fighters Sales after being owned for the past 47 years by Connie Edwards.  It is on its way to be restored to airworthy condition by Pays Air Service in Scone, NSW, Australia.  Check out Platinum Fighters on Facebook for more information.

Another Bf 109 Back Racing Through the Clouds

A Bf 109 G is back in the sky, thanks to the dedication and hard work of MeierMotors GmbH.  The vintage fighter took to the skies over Germany yesterday, with Pilot Charlie Brown at the controls.  This Bf 109 is owned by the Military Aviation Museum located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, which is under the direction of owner Jerry Yagen.  This Bf109will be a great addition to Mr. Yagen’s collection.  Hopefully we will see her at some airshows in the U.S. soon!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photo Credit: MeierMotors GmbH

The Warbird Watcher Recognized On WordPress Top 100 Blog Lists

wordpresslogo

WordPress Award List:

Named 73rd on the Top 100 Blogs List

Named 11th on Top 100 Growing Blogs List

8/12/15 Named 35th on Top 100 Posts List- Great News From the Collings Foundation

Historic Moment Captured at Ray Fagan Memorial Airshow in Granite Falls

alup-40s

P-40K s 42-10083 owned by Fagan Fighters WWII Museum and 42-10256 owned by Texas Flying Legends Museum reunite for their first flight together in 70 years after being recovered from a dry-lake bed in Russia. Photo Credit: Bernie Vasquez

These two P-40Ks, serial numbers 42-10083 and 42-10256 owned by Fagan Fighters WWII Museum and Texas Flying Legends Museum reunited and flew together for the first time in more than 70 years at the Ray Fagan Memorial Airshow this past weekend.  These two P-40’s both forced landed in a dry lake bed outside of Murmansk, Russia on November 10, 1944.  They were recovered and restored to flying status by Fagan Fighters WWII Museum in Minnesota.

Information:

http://fagenfighterswwiimuseum.org/aircraft/curtiss_p40/curtiss.html

-http://www.texasflyinglegends.org/aleutian-tiger-p-40k

Ever wondered what P-38s looked like operating in Germany in 1945?

Doc Rolls Out in Wichita!

doc3

doc4

Doc Rolls out 70 years after she was built in Wichita.  Although not airworthy yet, she is one step closer to flight!  First flight should be later this year.

Check out Doc Friends, the team restoring this B-29 at their website and on Facebook:

http://www.b-29doc.com/index.php

https://www.facebook.com/DocsFriends