Warbird Digest has just received the May, 2021 report from Chuck Cravens concerning the restoration of the Dakota Territory Air Museum’s P-47D Thunderbolt 42-27609 at AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji, Minnesota. We thought our readers would be very interested to see how the project has progressed since our last article on this important project. So without further ado, here it goes!
Five years ago, in April of 2016, I began writing monthly restoration updates on P-47D-23-RA 42-27609, though much fabrication and other preparation work had already preceded my first formal report. The horizontal and vertical stabilizers were the first structural components to undergo reassembly, which began in June of 2016. In early 2018, the main fuselage began to take shape in its fixture, and most of the work in the restoration shop focused on this assembly until they started on the wings. The July/August 2019 update was the first update to show parts (the spars) fitted to the wing fixtures.
But the big news this month is that the wings are now out of their fixtures and fitted to the fuselage! So, a little over a year and a half after starting wing assembly and five years from the first work in the restoration shop, we have begun joining up these major assemblies; this was a big event for AirCorps Aviation!
Preparing the Wings for Removal From the Assembly Fixtures
Over the last few months, the visual changes haven’t been very apparent because they were mainly systems installations inside the wings. To prepare the wings for removal from the fixtures, the systems tasks had to be completed.
The Wings Come Out of the Fixtures
The Wings are Fitted to the Fuselage for the First Time
The significance of this step in the restoration process is that the complexity of the P-47 wing design requires absolute precision in the wing and fuselage attachment points for the four different points on each side to line up properly. As general manager Erik Hokuf explained, the Republic wing attachment design is more complex than that of the P-51. If the fit isn’t perfect, major rework to the wing and fuselage attachments is required, and this would obviously require significant delays to restoration completion. The great care which the restoration team has taken at every step in the process of assembling the wings and fuselage up to this point paid off; the attachment points slid smoothly into place with no issues!
Each wing has four attachment points and because how precisely each of the four temporary retaining pins must align, everyone feels a little pressure, even though they are confident that they will fit. Permanent wing bolts will, of course, replace these pins during final assembly.
As restoration specialist Randy Kraft said, it is a great feeling to reach this milestone in the restoration of such a historically significant, rare warbird. “It went really nice. It is always a concern that everything fits and we are able to just slide the fixture pins in.” Randy and the other restoration specialists have started on the control surfaces; the rudder, elevators, ailerons and flaps will all be assembled in the coming weeks.
And that’s all for this month. We wish to thank AirCorps Aviation, Chuck Cravens for making this report possible! We look forwards to bringing more restoration reports on progress with this rare machine in the coming months. Be safe, and be well