The Fagen Fighters WWII Museum in Granite Falls, Minnesota has just added an important new airframe to their collection with the acquisition of Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat Bu.78645. This move came as quite a surprise, as the aircraft has been part of the Yanks Air Museum in Chino, California for the past forty years, and that museum rarely parts with any of their exhibits. Yanks does have an F6F-3 project coming close to completion though, which might explain their willingness to sell on such a rare artifact. According to the Yanks Air Museum, the U.S.Navy accepted F6F-5 Bu.78645 from Grumman on March 2nd, 1945. She apparently served two tours with VF-14 and was later at NAS Pensacola with VF-80, before ending up at NAS Squantum in Quincy, Massachusetts. She reportedly flew as a drone during the last period of her flying career.
The Hellcat currently sports a rather colorful VF-27 scheme, designed originally by one of the squadron’s top pilots, Lt. Carl Brown. Brown flew from CVL 23, the USS Princeton, while flying with VF-27. He is credited with 10.5 aerial victories.
With the Hellcat in-house now, Fagen Fighters is clearly building up an impressive naval complement to their already exceptional collection of Army Air Forces aircraft. While Yanks had fully restored the Hellcat to flying condition several decades ago, the aircraft made only a handful of post-restoration flights. However, Fagen Fighters intends to fly her and will put the Hellcat through a thorough inspection and maintenance program once they get her to their facility. They expect to have the fighter flying again by 2019.
Of additional importance, the museum will be holding their annual Ray Fagen Memorial Air Show on June 16th.
My recollection is that this Hellcat had a few post restoration flights by Gary Meermans, who also flew their newly restored Owl, after Yanks restored it. This Hellcat was purchased from Planes of Fame in the 70’s by California Warbirds with the intent of restoration to flight. It was moved to Warbirds West, Compton, CA for restoration work by Stan Hoefler, before he went to work for Yanks. I recall purchasing two new/oh’d R2800-10’s from a scrapyard in Wilmingtion, Ca for $1200 ea. Ultimately, California Warbirds sold it to Charles Nichols. Anyway, long time ago, just a little additional background info.
Many thanks for the details Randy… great to know that she flew following her restoration. It’s hard to believe that early-model R-2800s were still available for such little outlay back then. Oh how times have changed!