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Restored Treasure: Recovered Navy Hellcat Dedicated at Pensacola

Hellcat
The restored Hellcat with a period-costumed airman at the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Hellcat
Those present at the dedication ceremony included restoration staff and members of the Taylor family.

December 12, 2013 - On January 20, 1999, Taras Lysenko of A&T Recovery in Chicago submitted a proposal to the United States Navy to rescue several World War II aircraft submerged beneath the icy waters of Lake Michigan. They had crashed during carrier training operations for WWII pilots in the 1940s. Among the wrecks was a Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, BN 25910, which crashed more than five decades earlier while attempting to land on the USS Sable.

It took about another decade of cutting through red tape to obtain final authorization to make the recovery, but on November 30, 2009, A&T raised the mussel-encrusted warbird and hauled it to shore in Waukegan, Illinois. It was disassembled and hauled to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, where craftsmen in the museum's restoration shop spent the next three-plus years bringing the airplane back to display status.

The now pristine plane was dedicated last Friday, December 6, as a part of the museum's commemoration of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Recovery and restoration of this aircraft was funded by the Taylor family of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Company founder Jack C. Taylor, a former naval aviator, served aboard the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CV-6) flying F6F Hellcats during WWII. In 1957 he founded Enterprise Rent-A-Car, naming the company after the famous ship on which he served.

Taylor and several of his family members attended the ceremony in the museum's Blue Angels Atrium.

See the video of the initial recovery.

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