The EAA AirVenture Museum’s vanishingly rare North American P-64 fighter was started up for the first time in more than 20 years recently and fittingly, it was EAA Founder Paul Poberezny, who acquired the plane for the collection in 1964, who did the honors.
The plane was pushed outside of the Kermit Weeks Hangar where it had been been receiving some attention over the past month after being on static display for nearly 25 years, most recently within the facility’s “Eagle Hangar.” Since the plane was theoretically capable of running, after the plane’s maintenance and checkup had been completed, they decided to crank it up.
“Our purpose today was to put a preliminary run on the engine and check the ignition, electrical, fuel, and oil systems as well as the engines ability to run,” explained John Hopkins, EAA aircraft maintenance manager. “And it did just fine.” Hopkins continued, “I had called Paul again two days ago and asked him if he would be up for trying to run the plane, and he most certainly was game to give it a go.”
After a few tries and some smoking and sputtering, the engine comes to life:
Though often referred to as the “export fighter version of the AT-6 Texan”, its merely a family resemblance and no parts are interchangeable. The P-64 of which only 13 were built was primarily flown by the Peruvian Air Force. This particular plane was on of six scheduled to be shipped to Thailand (then Siam), but while awaiting shipment from Honolulu, Siam’s increasing alliance with Imperial Japan caused the United States to seize the planes under the powers granted by The Neutrality Act.
The plane is the only known survivor of the Thai-intended fighters, and there is only one other, non-running condition plane mounted on a pedestal at the Museo Aeronáutico del Perú, in Lima, Peru, next to the Mausoleum of Captain José Quiñones Gonzáles, a Peruvian national hero who died while flying the NA-50 variant.