Warbird Digest has just received the June, 2020 report from Chuck Cravens concerning 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 installation of instruments, hydraulic, water injection, and oil tanks was a large part of the restoration work this month. Progress on the wing assembly has also moved forwards as the Thunderbolt gets closer and closer to completion.
Aaron has been busy continuing systems and instrument installation in the P-47 cockpit.
Installed in Allied aircraft as part of the Identification, Friend or Foe (IFF) program during World War II, this system would send a signal for 14 seconds of every minute over the pilot’s radio to the ground station. The pilot could not speak while the unit was broadcasting.
Hydraulic system tanks, oil tanks, and the initial fitting of the water injection tank made up much of the fuselage work this month.
The P-47D-23RE had a 15 gallon tank to hold fluid for the water injection system. Water/Alcohol injection cools the flame temperature and controls flame propagation, thus preventing detonation, which can break piston rods and pistons. These systems allowed for higher manifold pressure, and added 300 Horsepower at the push of a button on the throttle quadrant [Graham White, Allied Aircraft Piston Engine of WWII, Warrendale, PA, Society of Automotive Engineers, 1995, p244]. The tank allowed about 5 minutes of power-boost. Later versions of the P-47 (P-47D-25RE and subsequent) doubled the capacity of the water tank.
The wings are complex and take a long time to assemble, but progress continues.
Armament and Drop Tanks
The P-47 was a versatile fighter/fighterbomber. Bombs, rockets, and of course .50 caliber machine guns, were all part of the possible armament loads. Many different drop tanks were used in the quest to extend the range. The most common tanks and ordnance are shown below. Normally, the P-47 could carry six or eight .50 cal. machine guns, and either 10 rockets or 2,500lbs of bombs, or any combination that totalled 2,500lbs. British 5 inch rockets were also used.
The eight .50 caliber Browning M-2s are familiar, so we will examine the more common drop tank and bomb and rocket loads.
A variety of different drop tanks were fitted to the Thunderbolt during the type’s career. The earliest tanks were the conformal 200 gallon ferry tanks, and the lozenge-shaped, flat 200 gallon belly tank. The P-47 also used British-designed, 108 gallon and 200 gallon tanks made of plastic-impregnated paper. These “paper” tanks were relatively inexpensive, but couldn’t store fuel for long periods of time. With the increased fuel capacity gained from drop tanks, the P-47 was able to perform missions far deeper into enemy territory.
Later, P-47 squadrons adopted teardrop-shaped 75 US gallon and 150 US gallon metal wing drop tanks. The 165 gallon teardrop tank, first intended for the P-38, was another drop tank P-47’s used.
And that’s all for this month. We wish to thank AirCorps Aviation, Chuck Cravens for making this report possible! We look forwards to bringing more restoration reports on progress with this rare machine in the coming months, although it will likely be some time before we can do so given how the present pandemic has suspended almost all non-essential activities around the globe at the moment. Be safe, and be well