Combat Veteran Vought F4U-1 ‘Birdcage’ Corsair – Restoration Update

The Birdcage Corsair center section is coming together nicely at Vultures Row Aviation. (image via Vultures Row Aviation)


Back in July, we published a report HERE concerning the extremely rare ‘birdcage’ variant of the Vought F4U-1 Corsair (BuNo.02449) undergoing restoration to flying condition at Vultures Row Aviation in Cameron Park, California. Quite a lot has taken place in the interim, and we thought our readers would be interested in seeing some photographs describing the latest efforts. Work has focused primarily upon completing the fabrication and installation of skins for the wing center section. Of these, the lower inner center section skins have been finished, painted, and installed and, just last week, the so-called ‘valley skins’ for the upper center section have undergone spot-welding, painting, and installation too. We also have some photographs showing work being performed on another very rare Corsair variant, an FG-1A which once flew during the 1946 Cleveland Air Races!

Wing Center Section – Lower Skins

The following images describe the manufacturing and installation process for the lower wing center section skins on the Corsair.

 

 

Wing Center Section – ‘Valley Skins’

These images reveal some of the details for how the so-called ‘valley skin’ assemblies are fabricated and installed. The term ‘valley’ is a term of convenience and refers, obviously,  to the dip in the gull-wing profile.

Wing Center Section – Leading Edge and Air Ducts

 

Horizontal Stabilizers – Attachment Fairings

Outer Wing Panel – Ribs, Flaps and Fuel Tank

The early Corsairs featured a number of unique details which later variants didn’t carry. For instance, the outer wing panels through the -1A included wet-wing fuel tanks in the leading edges just outside of the main armament. Furthermore, they also featured outer wing panel flaps which had fabric-covered trailing edges, instead of sheet metal airfoils. But uniquely, the first 325 ‘birdcage’ Corsairs had a feature which “drooped” the ailerons by 9 degrees to provide additional wing flap performance if needed. Since BuNo. 02449 came off the production line as construction number 297, it also had this capability, which Vultures Row is presently involved in replicating. There are images below which show the work to refabricate the outer wing panel rib at Station 3.25 which has vestigial details of this aileron droop hardware. Incidentally, the station number for a Corsair is a simple reference point describing the distance (in inches) from the datum point. So Station 3.25 for the outer wing panel is essentially the physical plane 3.25″ from the datum point at the wing fold.

Lucky Gallon

Vultures Row Aviation is working on several Corsair projects simultaneously in addition to the BuNo.02449. One of the most exciting of these is the ultra-rare FG-1A BuNo.13481 which the legendary Cook Cleland flew in the 1946 Cleveland Air Races as #92, Lucky Gallon. Walt Soplata saved this aircraft from certain scrapping, and while he was only able to preserve the center fuselage section, this will now form the basis for a resurrection of the airframe, which will be completed in the same livery it once wore during the races in 1946. This is an exciting development, and one which we look forwards to following in the coming years.



8 Comments

  1. Great article, excellent photos! One thing has me confused, though: in one of the photo captions, number 7 if I recall correctly, you say that “aluminum isn’t a particularly effective conductor” of electricity. That seems backwards to me, as I’ve always been told that aluminum is one of the better conductors of electricity, behind silver, copper, and gold.

  2. Awesome work, guys. Spending a few years rebuilding a famous warbird seems like time well spent imo. I hope everything goes smoothly and I would love to see a mini series produced about it.

  3. Awesome work guys! My Dad was a Marine Infantry vet on Okinawa. He turned me on to the bent wing bird as a child. It was love at first sight!. Hopefully once your finished you’ll fly her to New Century Airport in Gardner Kansas? Would love to check her out! Good luck with your restoration!

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