The New England Air Museum (NEAM) in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, like most such institutions, has to display/store some of its aircraft outdoors, and this has always presented a dilemma regarding their long-term preservation. Over the decades, they have worked hard to raise the capital to construct new buildings to house their more significant or fragile exhibits, but it is a constant struggle with the elements to protect those which must remain exposed. While external display is far from ideal, it does at least buy time for some airframes to either find better homes or a place indoors once the space becomes available. NEAM has an exceptional record for providing a place for rare survivors to linger when no-one else could or would step forward. In fact several unique airframes, like the Burnelli CBY-3, Vought F6U Pirate and Sikorsky S-60 prototype, have endured at NEAM long enough to find the right hands willing to restore them. As readers will remember, we covered the Burnelli’s extensive rebuild from disheveled relic to concourse-ready exhibit at NEAM; it is yet another magnificent example of what their restoration team can do.
Following the conclusion of the Burnelli’s restoration late last year, NEAM now had the personnel available to take on another project, with the beneficiary being Lockheed TV-2 Shooting Star BuNo.138048. The TV-2 is essentially a navalized variant of the T-33, and despite the proliferation of the latter, U.S. Navy examples are relatively rare today. While the example at NEAM was originally constructed towards a U.S. Air Force contract as T-33A-1-LO 53-5646, it was the Navy which actually took delivery of the jet trainer upon its completion in 1955. Oddly enough, the aircraft officially became a T-33B-1-LO following the introduction of the tri-service type designation system in September, 1962. BuNo.138048 served in the U.S. Navy until April, 1975, and wound up on display at NAS Willow Grove near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the early 1990s. NEAM acquired the Shooting Star on loan in 1992, and while they have looked after the airframe over the decades, it was again in need of additional TLC. Before they could refurbish the aircraft, however, NEAM staff had to obtain formal permission from the National Naval Aviation Museum, which has oversight of this airframe. Having gained the requisite approvals, the restoration team brought her into their shop exactly a year ago today, on December 8th, 2020. They have made significant progress in the interim.
As NEAM recently reported… aircraft which must be exposed to the weather will inevitably deteriorate. While this condition cannot be stopped, it can be mitigated and slowed to some degree. Preservation efforts will help slow the deterioration.
As an outside display aircraft, the museum’s current TV-2 preservation program is designed to improve the exhibit as well as protect it. These efforts have involved some disassembly, but they are not as detailed as those which would occur in a formal restoration. The team’s initial inspection found the Navy trainer to be in relatively decent overall condition, albeit with some issues resulting from her extended outdoor exposure to the elements. However, museum personnel do not expect any of these issues to have a negative impact on the aircraft’s longterm preservation. As the images above reveal, NEAM has made considerable progress in cleaning up this airframe in preparation for the application of additional preservatives and fresh paint. This should hopefully see the aircraft ready for display again in the near future.
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