WarbirdsNews has just received the latest report from Chuck Cravens on the restoration of Texas Flying Legends 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 in the intervening two months since our last article on this important project. So without further ado, here it goes!
Remarkable progress has been made on the forward fuselage structure this month. While the guys have spent some time on the final touches to the tail cone, the main emphasis has been building the internal structure that gives the fuselage that curvaceous, immediately recognizable, Thunderbolt form.
Though the aft fuselage, or tail cone, is substantially complete, there are always little finishing touches that prepare for later tasks, like equipment or systems installation.
One design element used in the P-47 can be characterized as a carry-over from the early metal airframes dating way back to Hugo Junkers’ J series in WWI and on through the Ford trimotor, many 1930s airframes’ structures, and the Junkers Ju52. That element is corrugated aluminum. The corrugations are there to stiffen the skin in the early examples listed, but in the Thunderbolt it was commonly used on bulkheads inside the fuselage to stiffen those parts.
The use of corrugation in the P-47 shouldn’t be thought of as outdated for the time, though. The technique is still used today: the Piper PA-28 family’s tail surfaces have stamped indentations on the vertical and horizontal tail surfaces for stiffening.
The corrugations are created using a die in a press brake.
The assembly pictured in the last photo isn’t quite complete; it still needs some stiffeners riveted to it, which explains why it looks a little different in the CAD drawing.
Preparing Parts and Assemblies for the Next Steps
As the fuselage work progresses, assemblies and single parts are constantly being put together, trimmed, and readied for the upcoming steps in the restoration.
When the basic bottom structure has been completed, the beams will be removed and the top half of the fuselage will be built on the bottom half.
And that’s all for this month. WarbirdsNews wishes to thank AirCorps Aviation, Chuck Cravens (for the words) and John LaTourelle (for the images) for making this report possible! We look forwards to bringing more restoration reports on progress with this rare machine in the coming months.