Dakota Territory Air Museum’s P-47 Update July 2018

Work on the Dakota Territory Air Museum's P-47D Thunderbolt is gathering pace, with visible progress becoming ever more fascinating. Here is the July, 2018 issue of Chuck Craven's latest report on the project at AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji, Minnesota. (photo via AirCorps Aviation)

WarbirdsNews has just received the latest report from Chuck Cravens on the restoration of the Dakota Territory Air Museum’s P-47D Thunderbolt 42-27609 at AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji, Minnesota. We thought our readers would be very interested to see how the project has progressed since our last article on this important project. So without further ado, here it goes!

The view from the rear of the upper intercooler air exit opening shows how large they really are. (photo by Nic Johnson)

Assembly of one of the unique features of 42-27609 recently began. The 5th Air Force experimented in a number of ways to get more range out of their P-47s. One of these experiments included an extra fuel tank mounted in the turtledeck behind the pilot. It was called a Christmas tree tank, because its triangular shape resembled the well-known holiday decoration. 

We also reached an even more important milestone as work began on the upper fuselage.

Christmas Tree Tank 

Aaron is looking over the first tank components in the fixture. (photo by John LaTourelle)
The top pieces of the tank and the stiffeners are clamped and clecoed on as assembly progresses.. (photo by John LaTourelle)
Another angle gives an idea of how the tank will look when completed. (photo by John LaTourelle)

The top of the tank would sit just under the peak of the “razorback” skin section immediately behind the pilot. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Lower Fuselage Finishing Touches 


Randy is working in the main fuel tank bay. (photo by John LaTourelle)
This view is from the rear of the fuselage. The former shown will have the front portion of the turbocharger mounting ring attached by the two holes visible on each side near the angle stiffeners. (photo by John LaTourelle)
Visible in this image once more are the two mounting holes, but also apparent is a darker green bracket that supports the turbocharger mounting ring a bit further aft. (photo by John LaTourelle)
Robb rivets on the left side reinforcing plate. This part strengthens the area surrounding the rear wing attach fittings. (photo by John LaTourelle)
The right side of the fuselage skin is permanently riveted on. The Intercooler exit opening appears on the left side of the image. Also visible in this shot is the large horizontal fixture beam at the level between the upper and lower fuselage. (photo by John LaTourelle)


Racks of upper fuselage parts arranged by subassembly await their sequence in the restoration. (photo by John LaTourelle)
Left to right, Lance, Ryan, and Nic examine the intercooler exit doors. (photo by John LaTourelle)
The outer side of the intercooler exit doors is visible here. (photo by John LaTourelle)
Lance has the parts laid out to assemble the throttle quadrant. (photo by John LaTourelle)


Denzil is working on disassembling the aileron attachment structures. (photo by John LaTourelle)

The part with the bearing in it is the inboard aileron hinge bracket. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Upper Fuselage 

For the first time we can show some of the upper fuselage structure in place as formers and longerons are fitted. (photo by Nic Johnson)
The section of one bulkhead where the upper and lower fuselage sections meet is shown here. (photo by Nic Johnson)
Randy is drilling to fit a part of the upper firewall bulkhead to the fuselage. (photo by Nic Johnson)
Hunter works at fitting one of the fuselage formers. (photo by Nic Johnson)
This diagram of the complex ducting between the engine, intercooler and turbo-supercharger helps as the assembly goes together. (photo by Nic Johnson)
The two very large openings will connect to the intercooler exit doors via ducting. (photo by Nic Johnson)

AirCorps Archivist Ester Aube

The profile subject for July is Ester Aube, the woman behind AirCorps Library’s continued success. Ester comes to us from Montana, and is an indispensable part of AirCorps Aviation. She handles all of the archived manuals and engineering drawings for both the restoration shop and for the AirCorps Library website. When we need to look something up, Ester’s work at organizing all this material enormously speeds up the process. 

Ester representing AirCorps library at Airventure 2017. (photo via AirCorps Aviation)

The largest part of her job is digitizing these fragile 70 year old materials and it isn’t unusual for her to scan 30,000 pages in a single month. Through her work for the AirCorps Library, Ester has helped other organizations, like the Globe Swift Museum, digitally preserve their collections of original documents and drawings. Ester has a Bachelor of Science in art conservation with a minor in art history from the University of Delaware, making her uniquely qualified to handle the irreplaceable documents that warbird enthusiasts have sent her to digitize and preserve. 

Ester’s favorite warbird is the P-40. 

And that’s all for this month. WarbirdsNews wishes to thank AirCorps Aviation, Chuck Cravens (words) as well as John LaTourelle and Nic Johnson (images) for making this report possible! We look forwards to bringing more restoration reports on progress with this rare machine in the coming months.

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