Collings Foundation’s Grumman F6F Hellcat Flies!

The Collings Foundation's Grumman F6F-3N Hellcat Bu.41476, pictured here in June during an engine test, has made her first post-restoration flight following several years of TLC at Gary Norville's American Aero Services in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. (photo via Gary Norville)
Aircorps Art Dec 2019

The Collings Foundation’s combat-veteran Grumman F6F-3N Hellcat Bu.41476 made its first post restoration flight yesterday in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Gary Norville’s American Aero Services brought the famed Grumman ‘cat back to life, as they have also done for a good number of the Collings Foundation’s aircraft over the past few decades. The aircraft has an interesting history, both as a combat aircraft, and as a pioneering airframe in naval night-fighter history which our readers can read in an earlier post we made HERE.

Well-known pilot Rick Sharpe had the honor of making the first flight, and everything seems to have gone well. There’s a brief bit of video taken from the ramp outside American Aero Services showing the Hellcat on her way skywards…

And another of her taxiing after the successful first hop…

Here is a nice video of one of the engine tests from about a month ago…

And another from just a few days ago…

The first flight came on the eve of the 50th anniversary for the Apollo 11 moon launch just ‘a few miles’ down the coast, a sight which would have been very visible in the skies overhead at the time… It also comes seventy years or so since the last active-Navy Hellcat flew from the airfield that once served as Navy Outlying Field New Smyrna Beach during and just after WWII. More importantly, however, the first flight comes just a week or so before EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2019 begins, so hopefully the pugnacious fighter will be ready in time to make the journey to Wisconsin… Bravo to all at American Aero Services for all they have done to bring this beautiful aircraft back to flying condition, and best of luck to them at Oshkosh! May she have many happy years flying for the Collings Foundation and keeping alive the history of Naval Aviation in WWII.

Many thanks to Gary Norville for granting us permission to use these images.

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