We have just received the March/April, 2022 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!
This month in the restoration shop:
The fitting of eight replica Browning M2 machine guns began this month. Control surfaces are getting nearer to completion. Access panels for the gun and ammunition bays also received attention and the finished turbosupercharger has been mounted. We will also check out the history and mission of the Dakota Territory Air Museum for whom this P-47 is being restored.
The restoration shop has been working on the control surfaces for quite a while. The left wing has the finished flap and aileron mounted. The right wing’s movable surfaces are close to completion along with the elevators. These are the final large assemblies for the restoration effort.
A WWII airplane isn’t a fighter without its guns (or at least nonfunctional replicas). This month, the replica M-2 Brownings were fitted in place.
Doors, access panels, and landing gear were all part of the work on the wings during March and April.
One interesting piece of 1940s technology is the fuel gauge assembly, which is receiving some modifications in the interest of better operational safety. Fuselage work continues to primarily involve installation of the complex systems which control the engine, turbosupercharger, hydraulic, and electrical components.
The very large turbosupercharger is one of the defining features of the P-47’s design philosophy. This month, the turbosupercharger was finished, tested, and installed.
This month we will depart from our usual historical section describing the P-47 Thunderbolt’s manufacture and service life. Instead, we will examine the Dakota Territory Air Museum’s history and mission. This museum owns the P-47D under restoration at AirCorps Aviation, as well as many other beautifully restored flying machines. They are located at 100 34th Ave NE in Minot, North Dakota. Museum Director, Jenna Grindberg provided the following information about the museum.
Our Mission: “To be a vital historical aviation resource honoring the men, women, and machines that have impacted the rich history of aviation through displays and events that educate, inspire and entertain people of all ages.”
The Dakota Territory Air Museum was incorporated in 1986 (the same year as the Minot-Ward County Centennial) by Don Larson, Al Pietsch, and Warren Pietsch. With assistance from the State Centennial Committee, the newly incorporated Dakota Territory Air Museum helped put on the Centennial Air Show in Minot.
Construction began on the first building in 1988, an 80ft. x 100ft. hangar now known as the Restoration Hangar on the east side of the property. In 1990-1991 an addition was made to the original hangar which now includes the main entrance of the museum and is known as the Wright Flyer Hangar.
A generous donation in the mid-1990s made by Oswin H. Elker made possible the construction of the third building, the Oswin H. Elker Memorial Wing, which was completed in 2001. Oswin H. Elker was a World War II veteran who flew with the Flying Tigers in the China-Burma-India Theater and was a Surrey, North Dakota native (Surrey is about eight miles east of Minot). Oswin and his family had visited the museum and really liked what was going on here at the museum. Oswin donated some of his items from World War II which are currently a featured exhibit at the museum. In 2007, the Wings of Freedom expansion was completed which almost doubled the gallery space in the Oswin H. Elker Memorial Wing. The fifth building was completed in 2013, the Flying Legends Hangar.
The Dakota Territory Air Museum is now home to over 60 aircraft and thousands of artifacts that have been generously loaned or donated to the museum over the years. The Wright Flyer Hangar is home to the museum’s full-scale Wright Flyer replica that was built by museum volunteers in 2003 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight in 1903. This hangar is also host to a room full of artifacts and exhibits dating from World War I up through today.
The Restoration Hangar is home to many displays including a DC-3 nose cone that is accessible by museum guests, an aircraft engine display that includes engines dating from the late 1910s to the 1960s, and an antique fire truck display that features three immaculately restored fire trucks once in use with the Minot Fire Department that date back to 1919. Several restoration projects call this hangar home. Restoration projects are worked on by museum volunteers. Several of the aircraft on display at the museum today would not have been possible without the dedicated volunteers to help restore and maintain them.
The Oswin H. Elker Memorial Wing currently houses the majority of the museum’s general aviation aircraft collection. The Elker Wing features aircraft from just about every decade from the 1910s onward; such as a 1910 Curtiss Pusher (replica), a 1929 Arrow Sport, a Cessna 195, a Beechcraft Staggerwing, and a Lear Jet. The Elker Wing is also the home to our extensive aviation library in our library loft. The library loft contains 3,000+ books on various aviation-related topics which include military aviation history, instruction manuals, commercial aviation history, and much more!
The Flying Legends Hangar is the current home of the Bruce Eames Collection of warbirds. This incredible flying collection has only grown to include rare World War II-era planes like the P-47 Thunderbolt, the Hawker Hurricane, and the FM-2P Wildcat.
The Bruce Eames Collection was once based in Houston, Texas at the Texas Flying Legends Museum for part of the year. Every summer, the aircraft would travel to the Dakota Territory Air Museum as a way to keep them safe during the summer hurricane season. Several would also spend some of the summer months in Maine before all migrating back down to Texas for the long North Dakota winters. Today, they are based at the museum year-round.
Our outside static display features aircraft once flown in the 5th Fighter Interceptor Squadron based at nearby Minot Air Force Base; the T-33 Shooting Star, the F-106 Delta Dart, and the F-15 Eagle. These three aircraft tell the story of the historic 5th FIS. An A-7 Corsair II and a C-47 Skytrain round out the outside static display area. Each aircraft has been wonderfully restored and are maintained by museum volunteers. The final part of our outside static display is a model of the B-52 Stratofortress perched on a pedestal right at the center of the museum grounds. The B-52 model was donated to the museum by the U.S. Air Force. The B-52 flies out of nearby Minot AFB and is one of two B-52 bases currently operating in the US.
The Dakota Territory Air Museum has a growing aviation education outreach program. For a number of years, the museum has partnered with the Farstad Foundation and provided aviation scholarships that can be used for primary flight training, advanced flight training, maintenance training (A&P), and other aviation-related careers. The museum also hosts several youth aviation camps during the summer months for elementary-aged students and middle-school aged students interested in aviation. ACE (Aviation Camp Experience) is designed for third and fourth graders with an interest in aviation.
The three-hour curriculum includes an introduction to the basic concepts of flight and other subjects to introduce aviation to kids. PACE (Passport Aviation Camp Experience) is designed for fifth and sixth graders with a strong interest in aviation. This week-long camp goes deeper into the more complex ideas of flight including advanced flight concepts, the history of modern aviation, military aviation, and careers within the aviation industry.
PACE ends in a free introductory flight for the participants in the class. PACE is done in partnership with the Minot Aero Center who provide the aircraft and pilots for the introductory flight.
During the course of the year, the Dakota Territory Air Museum also hosts numerous class groups for school tours. The museum generally has between 700-1000 students come through with school groups from all over the state. These tours are provided to the schools at no cost.
Every year for the last 25 years, the museum has been holding an annual airplane raffle as a means to fundraise for museum operations. As a 501c, non-profit organization, without the support of the public, we would not be able to continue to function as we do today. 2022 is the 26th year for the airplane raffle.
This year, the grand prize is a 1945 J-3 Piper Cub or $20,000 cash, winner’s choice! Every week we also draw for Dakota Territory Air Museum leather bomber jackets. We will give away a total of 25 jackets in 20 weeks leading up to the grand prize drawing which will be held on August 13, 2022, here at the museum. Tickets to enter the raffle are $50/each and there will be a maximum of 4,000 paid entries. You can find more information on the museum’s website, www.dakotaterritoryairmuseum.com, by giving us a call at 701-852-8500 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you can see, Dakota Territory Air Museum has certainly fulfilled its mission statement!
Special thanks to Jenna Grindberg, Warren Pietsch, and all the folks at Dakota Territory Air Museum. Thanks also to Bruce Eames, who has committed the resources and time to keep the warbirds in the Eames Collection not only flying, but also telling the stories of the people who built, flew, and maintained the WWII planes that make up that collection.
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