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Progress Continues on 'Birdcage' Corsair Restoration

The cleaned center section of the fuselage had accumulated rust and marine growth after being submerged in Lake Michigan for 67 years.
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May 19, 2011 — Restoration of a rare Vought F4U-1 “Birdcage” Corsair recovered from Lake Michigan last November is making progress, say officials at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. This early Corsair version received the nickname “Birdcage” because of their canopy framework, which was changed to the more familiar bubble canopy used on later models.

Museum Director Capt. Bob Rasmussen, USN (Ret.), said the aircraft was disassembled to clean off corrosion and marine growth to the bare metal. “The canopy has been completely refurbished and we were able to use the original Plexiglas, spare one broken panel,” he said.

Outbound flaps have been rebuilt and await recovering, Rasmussen added. The Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8W radial engine is also being disassembled and cleaned, although this restoration is for display only.

“The aircraft is being restored to original condition for complete static display,” Rasmussen said.

According to the museum, the plane crashed on June 12, 1943, during carrier landing qualification training out of Naval Air Station Glenview, in suburban Chicago. Ensign Carl Harold “Harry” Johnson, U.S. Navy Reserve, was at the controls when the plane crashed over the port bow of the carrier USS Wolverine. He was rescued by the picket boat and suffered superficial cuts as the Corsair sank into 220 feet of water.

Funding for the recovery, done by A&T Recovery, Chicago, as well as the restoration is being provided by Chuck Greenhill, EAA 113991/WOA 12289. Greenhill is also participating in the restoration by building the speed ring – part of the engine cowling. “I decided to make the ring cowl – I just got started,” Greenhill said.

Although the project is making progress, there are also two other restorations in progress at the museum, Rasmussen said: a Consolidated PB2Y Coronado and a Privateer. They estimate the total time needed to restore the airplane to complete static display condition at about a year.


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