When the world bid a happy farewell to 2020, with cautious optimism that 2021 would bring bigger and better things, the warbird community did not have to wait long for the latter. On January 3, Steve Hinton performed the first flight of Fagen Fighters’ F6F-5 Hellcat following a two and a half year restoration by Steve Hinton, Jr. at Fighter Rebuilders in Chino, California.
As WarbirdNews reported in 2018, Yanks Air Museum once owned this aircraft, and stated that the U.S. Navy accepted F6F-5 BuNo. 78645 on March 2, 1945. She apparently served two tours with VF-14 followed by VF-80 at NAS Pensacola, Florida. Her final military assignment was with a reserve unit at NAS Squantum in Quincy, Massachusetts where she allegedly flew as a drone. When Fagen received the Hellcat, she wore the colorful livery which once graced a Hellcat flown regularly by Lt. Carl Allen Brown Jr. when he was with VF-27 aboard USS Princeton (CVL 23). Brown finished the war with 10.5 aerial victories, five of which he scored on October 24, 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, an action which earned him the Navy Cross.
With new ownership comes a new paint scheme, as Evan Fagen recently told WarbirdNews.com/Warbird Digest, “We are very excited to welcome this airplane in our collection. It’s got a neat story in that the paint scheme represents a Hellcat flown by a friend of mine Ens. Don McPherson, a five-victory ace who currently lives in Nebraska. At 97 he’s sharp as a tack, still drives and is very savvy on his social media and technology. We can’t wait to show him the airplane. I hope to have it here in Minnesota sometime in January.”
The Fagen Fighters WWII Museum already boasts an impressive collection of Army Air Force aircraft, but with the FM-2 and SNJ-4 currently flying and an SB2C-5 under restoration, the “new” F6F-5 will prove an important addition to what’s becoming known as the Fagen “Air Wing”.
For more information about the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum, please visit www.fagenfighterswwiimuseum.org