Warbird Digest has just received the September, 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 P-47 is progressing nicely. This month we will look at some fabrication shop work, fuselage and cockpit restoration progress, and several details concerning the wing restoration.
It has been a while since we highlighted fabrication shop work, but parts are constantly being created as they are required by the restoration shop.
Fuselage and Cockpit
Aaron continued working on cockpit installations this month. One of the major items was the main switch box.
Creating a new set of wings is a complicated task that has been underway for months now, but progress is taking place every day.
Southwest Pacific Radio Research
One of the interesting facets of the restoration of P-47 42-27609 is the radio equipment, because the mounting had to be changed to accommodate the Christmas tree tank. The tank was placed where the radios originally mounted. 42-27609 had 3, SCR 274 high frequency transmitters in the fuselage when it was recovered. Despite being reequipped with SCR 274 comm radios, the airplane contained a terminal strip for an SCR-522, which wasn’t used for SCR 274 installations. It also had a BC 966 IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) unit.
The BC 966 was normally used with an SCR 522 comm radio, so it seems that 42-27609 left the Evansville factory with the very high frequency SCR 522. At the time it arrived in Townsville, Australia, the Fifth Air Force was using the high frequency SCR 274.
Since the P-47 had SCR 274s installed, they were undoubtedly installed upon its May arrival in the SW Pacific theater.
During the time span of 42-27609’s service, the Fifth Air Force issued a technical order on June 16th, 1944 requiring their squadrons to remove the Christmas tree tanks. There were three primary reasons for the order. Firstly, the tanks presented a fire hazard. Secondly, their removal would facilitate the installation of VHF radios (SCR-522s). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as documented in their fine book, Check Six, James Curran and Terry Poprovaks note, “Aside from the supposedly better communication thus afforded, such a change was essential in order to communicate with naval aircraft.” [James C. Curran and Terrrence G. Popravak, Jr., Check Six, (Casemate Publishers, Pghiledelphia and Oxford,2015) 141]
This modification is also documented in the squadron histories of several 5th Air Force squadrons. However, 42-27609 never underwent the conversion back to the SCR 522 VHF radio, nor did she have her Christmas tree tank removed. As such, it is unlikely that 42-27609 saw actual combat after July, 1944 when those changes were implemented at squadron level.
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. Be safe, and be well