Aircraft questions skyrocketing at NC Aviation MuseumPosted on 02/18/09
Contact: Rick Bondurant
Several questions have been burning up the phone lines and e-mail inbox at the North Carolina Aviation Museum this week. Probably the most-asked query is, "Do you still have that ‘Corsair' on exhibit?" Thankfully, the response is YES!
For several weeks now, the NCAM has been the extremely fortunate host of a beautifully restored and maintained 1945 Chance Vought F4U-4 "Corsair." One of perhaps a dozen or so in near-mint condition remaining ANYWHERE, this classic craft would probably retail in the neighborhood of $2 million.
The gull-winged goliath came to the museum thanks to the generosity of owner Doug Matthews of Wellington, Fla., as well as the efforts of Air Associates' owners and longtime NCAM supporters Dave Turlington and Glenn Ball, and manager Jerry Jeffers. Air Associates is an avionics installation facility located near the NCAM at the Asheboro Regional Airport where the "Corsair" had modern avionics and global positioning systems installed.
Following quickly in the same breath as Question No. 1 is the ever-popular compound inquiry, "Do you know when it will leave and can I take pictures or videotape the departure?"
For the much more complicated answer to this set of stumpers, the first stop is Julie Clevenger, a projects manager for ClassicFightersofAmerica.org. "We would love to be able to allow the museum to keep the plane until around end of February," says Clevenger, who also serves as Matthews' assistant. "Unfortunately, things change rapidly in our business, so there's no guarantee!"
As for the second half of that question, concerning recording the departure, "plans are in the works," says Bob Coyle, NCAM Board Chairman. "But, we won't know for sure if we can arrange something until the actual date and time is firmed up in a couple weeks. I would advise people to start checking at the museum a few days before the end of February."
Tentatively, if the museum is open on departure day, the hope is to allow people to use the NCAM lot to park and gain an outstanding vantage point from which to record the ‘Corsair' flying out. "The ‘Departure Party' sounds great," said Clevenger in a phone interview Friday, "and I'm pretty sure that whoever comes can count on some very interesting passes over the field before it heads out." The warbird's next stop will be the Tyco Air Show in Titusville, Fla., set for March 13-15
"We also hope, of course, if the F4U-4 leaves on a day we're open," says Coyle, "that folks will take the time to come in and enjoy all the other fantastic aircraft and memorabilia we have to offer."
Hot topic No. 4 involves the length of stay of another recent arrival, a Savoia Marchetti S-56 Seaplane, like the one Smith Reynolds, R. J. Reynolds youngest son, flew solo 6,000 miles in the early 1930s. The up-and-coming aviator traveled from London to Hong Kong to celebrate a delayed honeymoon with his newlywed bride and Broadway actress Libby Holman.
"It's on the first month of a three-year run at the NCAM thanks to archivist Richard Murdoch and the entire Reynolda House Museum of American Art family in Winston-Salem," says Coyle. "What a great way to bring in the new year!!"
The last, but certainly not the least, BIG "Question of the Week" is, "What is coming to the museum next?"
One answer very well could be a Canadair T-33 "Silver Star," owned by Matthews and Classic Fighters of America. If all works out well planning, timing and weather wise, this two-seat version of the Air Force's first jet fighter, the F-80 "Shooting Star," will be rolling in about the same time as the classic "Corsair" rolls out.
The T-33 is one of the most widely used jet trainers in history and continues to serve in various armed forces around the world even today. It entered service during the 1950s. The Navy also acquired the aircraft and had it modified for blue-water operation as the TV-2.
The United States Air Force's first jet trainer, it soon was dubbed the "T-Bird" and was being produced under license in both Japan and Canada. According to ClassicFightersofAmerica.org, the T-33 served in Canada as a target tug and general utility aircraft, having been re-designated the CT-133. About 50 are in the hands of warbird operators, mostly in the United States.
The appearance of the T-33 was very distinctive due to large centrally-mounted fuel tanks on each wing-tip. While only around 1,700 P-80 "Shooting Stars" were built, nearly 7,000 T-33s saw active service around the world. The T-33 was reliable and had forgiving flight properties. Its service life in the Royal Canadian Air Force was very long. Although they had stopped using it as a trainer in 1976, there were still more than 50 aircraft in the RCAF's inventory in the late 1990s.
The North Carolina Aviation Museum is well into its second decade as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history, as well as honoring the heritage of the wonderfully wide, wide world of flight! It's also involved with on-site restoration and the promotion of aviation awareness through a variety of tours and events designed for those from 7 to 97.
Supported by nearly a 99-percent volunteer force, the NCAM features a Piper Cub flown by Orville Wright, as well as many other historical, experimental and even unmanned aircraft. The museum also has two hangars full of military vehicles, weapons, equipment and uniforms, with more being displayed nearly every month! Artifacts available for viewing include items from World War I, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars - even the Cold War.
The facility is currently operating under its "Winter Schedule," Wednesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, from 1-5 p.m. For more information, call the staff at 625-0170 during normal business hours, or check out the website at www.ncairmuseum.org. For more info on the F4U-4, T-33 and other fascinating aircraft, check out www.classicfighters.org