Northrop P-61 Black Widow – February 2015 Restoration Update

The P-61 rolled out on the tarmac at MAAM's WWII Weekend in June, 2014. A lot of work has happened since this point! (photo via Russ Strine)
The P-61 rolled out on the tarmac at MAAM's WWII Weekend in June, 2014. A lot of work has happened since this point! (photo via Russ Strine)
The P-61 rolled out on the tarmac at MAAM’s WWII Weekend in June, 2014. A lot of work has happened since this point! (photo via Russ Strine)

WarbirdsNews recently heard from Russ Strine who runs the Mid Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania. As most of you will know, his museum is rebuilding the Northrop P-61B Black Widow (42-39445) which they recovered from Mt.Cyclops in Hollandia, New Guinea back in the late 1980s. They are making great progress with the night fighter, and we thought you would like to hear (and see) some of the work that’s been going on with the Widow of late….

P-61 wing trailing edge section for one of the outer wing panels. (photo via Russ Strine)
P-61 wing trailing edge section for one of the outer wing panels. (photo via Russ Strine)

Russ Strine: The Mid Atlantic Air Museum’s P-61 restoration project continues to move along. As a result of the recent Kickstarter fund raising effort, all of the materials to manufacture the new wing spars, replace any damaged wing ribs, and reskin the wings are now in house. Several specialty machine shops are in the process of providing quotes for the machining of the eight wing spar caps. Meanwhile MAAM crews are busy with the other wing spar components such as the spar web, and are also making the patterns for and forming new wing ribs as necessary. The ribs are made in 3 sections, nose, center, and trailing edge, however it is a number of the nose or leading edge section ribs which must be replaced due to damage from trees during the crash.

The recently purchased heavy aluminum billet material which will be used to form the outer wing spar caps. (photo via Russ Strine)
The recently purchased heavy aluminum billet material which will be used to form the outer wing spar caps. (photo via Russ Strine)

Work on the crew nacelle has been focused on installing miles of electrical wiring for quite some time now, and just prior to the December holidays ground power was put on the airplane for the first time to test all electrical circuits, which went without a hitch!

Other work has centered around stringing and connecting up engine fuel system and flight control trim cables.

During 2014 an original New Old Stock Curtiss Electric propeller was purchased after raising $20,000 dollars during the Museum’s annual World War II Weekend event. A second Curtiss propeller has also been promised to the Museum for the project.

While the Mid Atlantic Air Museum awaits a contract with a machine shop to mill out the billet material for the outer wing panel main spar caps, they are building up the interconnecting web sections which will complete the spars. (photo via Russ Strine)
While the Mid Atlantic Air Museum awaits a contract with a machine shop to mill out the billet material for the outer wing panel main spar caps, they are building up the interconnecting web sections which will complete the spars. (photo via Russ Strine)
A wooden former which will be used to shape a leading edge rib for one of the P-61's outer wing panels. (photo via Russ Strine)
The wooden formers which will be used to shape the leading edge ribs for the P-61’s outer wing panels. (photo via Russ Strine)
A freshly formed leading edge rib for one of the Black Widow's outer wing panels. Following forming in soft 2024-T0 aluminum, the rib will be heat treated to bring it up to its full 2014-T6 tensile strength. (photo via Russ Strine)
Freshly formed leading edge ribs for the Black Widow’s outer wing panels. Following forming in soft 2024-T0 aluminum, the ribs will be heat treated to bring them up to their full 2024-T6 tensile strength. (photo via Russ Strine)
The P-61's propeller spinners are also coming together. (photo via Russ Strine)
The P-61’s propeller spinners are also coming together. (photo via Russ Strine)

WarbirdsNews wishes to thank Russ Strine and the Mid Atlantic Air Museum for contributing the details for this article. The P-61 is in the last stages of its restoration, which as anyone will know is often the most complex and expensive stage. Engines need rebuilding, and systems too. For those wishing to contribute to this important, and ultra-rare aircraft please click HERE to find out how.

The museum is a must see for anyone with even a passing interest in vintage military aviation. Their WWII Weekend during the first weekend in June is not to be missed either. It is a unique event combining many aspects of WWII from mock ground battles, military encampments, and some superb aircraft on the ground and in the air… not to mention a great memorabilia market as well with dozens of interesting vendors.

3 Comments

  1. Very nice everyone I wish i lives closer so o could help or see it. One of the most beautiful airplanes out there, this old war bird never gets the respect it deserves.

  2. My grandfather flew a p-61 in ww2. He was in the 416th night fighter squadron. He was a great man, and as a tribute to him when he passed away, i got a tattoo of the black widow. Thank you for restoring this beautiful plane and preserving our rich history.

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