Without fanfare, the Commemorative Air Force’s Bell P-63F Kingcobra took to the skies again on April 14th, near Houston, Texas. The Kingcobra had been ground-bound since an October, 2013 belly-landing at Skywest Airport near Midland, Texas. As forced landings go, the aircraft had not suffered too much structural damage in the incident, but the engine, propeller and reduction gear box needed a good deal of expensive rework, for obvious reasons. P-63F 43-11719 is maintained by the P-63 Sponsor Group and one of only two of the variant ever built. She is also just one of three currently active Kingcobras in the world (the others being the Palm Springs Air Museum’s P-63A 42-68864 “Pretty Polly” and the Legacy of Flight Museum‘s P-63C 43-11223).
The aircraft sat disassembled in its hangar for the best part of 18 months following the accident, while the P-63 Sponsor Group formed plans and raised funds for the restoration work, which eventually began in the spring of 2015.
The restoration team had reattached the wings and the aircraft back on its gear again by August, 2015. They reinstalled the overhauled engine last November. The freshly-rebuilt propeller and reduction gear box arrived in February of this year, and from then on, the aircraft moved quickly back into airworthy condition.
WarbirdsNews spoke briefly with the P-63’s pilot, Mark Allen, and he wrote this report for us, “First flight was on April 14th, after two high speed runs down the runway. The first flight was 20 minutes long, circling over the Pearland (in Houston) airport at 2,000 feet. This time was spent checking the systems, specifically the fuel system and the landing gear, including a gear down flyby. Engine pressures and temperatures were monitored very closely. Some minor squawks where found and fixed before the next flight the following day.”
It is great to see her back in the air, and we expect to see her a good deal on the air show circuit this year. There is one other example of the Kingcobra in the CAF fleet, P-63A 42-68941 with the Dixie Wing in Peachtree City, Georgia. She is nearing the end of a decades-long restoration effort, and we expect her to be flying again in the coming months. Watch this space!