Texas Flying Legends Museum – P-47D Restoration Update – Jan/Feb 2018

The fixture which holds the main fuselage of Texas Flying Legends Museum's P-47D. The aircraft is starting to take shape, as we find in this month's restoration update from Chuck Cravens at AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji, Minnesota. (photo by John LaTourelle)

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!

The permanently riveted tail cone has been moved to its horizontal stand. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Texas Flying Legends P-47D-23RA – Jan/Feb 2018 Report

By Chuck Cravens

It has been almost exactly two years since we began working on the P-47 on the shop floor. A great deal of that time has been spent on fixture fabrication, disassembly of the veteran airframe, inspection, and parts manufacturing. The tail cone, horizontal stabilizer, and vertical stabilizer are pretty much finished, but this month an even more exciting part of the restoration began.

Fuselage Components:

Fuselage longerons and ribs went into the fixture, so for the first time the forward fuselage is beyond the parts fitting stage and is under active assembly.

Ryan works on readying the wing crosstie for assembly. These massive components tie the wings together through the P-47’s fuselage, and carry the attachment fittings on each side of it. (photo by John LaTourelle)
The wing crosstie and attach fittings are ready for use. (photo by John LaTourelle)
The guys attach some brackets to one of the crossties. (photo by John LaTourelle)
Hunter works on assembling one of the fuselage bulkheads. (photo by John LaTourelle)
Here we have another view of the same bulkhead as Hunter puts the assembly together. (photo by John LaTourelle)
The fuselage bulkhead and crosstie are trial-assembled to sections of the lower longeron and crosstie fittings. (photo by John LaTourelle)
The fuselage assembly shown in the previous image, but this time looking from the forward side. The wing crossties are within the bulkhead. The main fuselage assembly is seen in its jig in the background. (photo by John LaTourelle)
At last we can see longerons going into the fixture here, as Randy works on additional pieces to fit into the complex assembly. (photo by John LaTourelle)
A view from the forward end of the fuselage shows how the lower longeron sweeps upward. (photo by John LaTourelle)
Robb checks the lower longeron. (photo by John LaTourelle)

These lower longerons form a compound curve as they extend back and they each have over 30 separate pieces that need to fit perfectly to make the assembled longeron conform to the Thunderbolt’s beautiful lines.

Hunter and Randy work on the now-painted fuselage cross tie rib assembly. It is mounted in the fixture by the wing attach points. (photo by John LaTourelle)
Another view as Randy and Hunter drive rivets. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Tail Cone:

As the work on assembling the forward fuselage got underway, the finishing touches were put on the tail cone this month and the permanent riveting was done- other than a few that will be left off to facilitate later assembly. The whole assembly was removed from the vertical fixture and mounted on a horizontal stand that will make it easy to mate with the rest of the fuselage when that time comes.

Robb clecoing a skin section to the tail cone. (photo by John LaTourelle)
Randy aligns a fuselage stringer. (photo by John LaTourelle)
The skin piece at the rear of the tail wheel opening has been riveted on with the typical wartime selection of several different rivet colors.(photo by John LaTourelle)
The area of the tail cone to which the horizontal stabilizer attaches has been permanently riveted in this shot.(photo by John LaTourelle)
Nearly all of the tail cone’s permanent rivets are in place. (photo by John LaTourelle)
Randy looks over the completed tail cone assembly to ensure it is ready for removal from its fixture. (photo by John LaTourelle)
The tail cone has been removed from the vertical fixture and mounted on a mobile stand which will simplify its alignment when the time comes to attach it to the forward fuselage.(photo by John LaTourelle)
The yellow-green zinc chromate paint for internal corrosion protection is prominent in this view from the forward bulkhead of the tail cone section. (photo by John LaTourelle)

And that’s all for this update. However, I would like to acknowledge a worthy project currently underway at the New Tech Institute in Evansville, Indiana; the city where the Republic Aviation Corporation had a factory that produced the very P-47D depicted in this article. The New Tech Institute is a Project Based School, and one of their teachers is currently involving his students in an effort to create a pair of replica P-47 Thunderbolts for display nearby. Teacher Pat Carter’s words below speak for themselves, but I am sure the group would welcome donations, or other forms of assistance to help with their efforts.

“New Tech Institute opened in 2010 and is a Project Based Learning school that has also been certified by the State of Indiana as a STEM High School. The school is located less than a half mile from the former Republic Aviation Plant in Evansville where over 5,000 men and women manufactured 6,242 P-47 Thunderbolts from 1942-1945. New Tech chose the Thunderbolt as our school mascot, and has been actively promoting the aircraft in its historic role such as working to develop displays for Evansville Wartime Museum and one of the projects currently being built is a 1/3 scale reproduction of a P-47…. Our school has been blessed to meet Lt. Allen Sanderson a member of the 57th Fighter Group (First in the Blue) who flew 118 missions in his ‘Lady Jane’. In talking with Lt. Sanderson, we asked if we could name this aircraft Lady Jane in his honor and he agreed. Our goal is to build two of these aircraft, one for display at our school and a second for the Evansville Wartime Museum.”

AirCorps Aviation decided to help the project, and felt the involved students, teachers, and consultants could benefit from membership in AirCorps Library which gives them access to the available engineering drawings, manuals, and other information on the P-47 and over 20 other warbirds. If you are also interested in supporting their project, please contact Pat Carter at 812-746-8796.

The wooden frame which will form the 1/3 scale P-47 replica coming together at the Newtech Institute in Evansville, Illinois. (photo via AirCorps Aviation)

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.

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