The Fagen Fighters WWII Museum’s Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver (BuNo.83393) roared to life outside the museum’s workshop in Granite Falls, Minnesota yesterday, performing its first engine runs in nearly 80 years and marking yet another major milestone in the airframe’s resurrection. It is amazing to see how Fagen Fighters has transformed the mortal remains of this once-forlorn aircraft, one of just a handful of SB2Cs extant.
This particular example came to grief in woodland near Naval Air Station Dahlgren, Virginia during flight trials on July 24th, 1945. The wreck lay where it fell until 1993, when Kevin Smith (with permission from the US Navy) recovered what remained from its wartime crash site on behalf of the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum (NASM). Smith later gained full title to the 83393 once NASM had salvaged the parts they needed to complete their own Helldiver (SB2C-5 BuNo.83479), accumulating numerous additional parts for the project over the succeeding decade or so.Fagen Fighters SB2C-5 Navy Helldiver, known as “the Beast” roared back to life at Fagen Fighters WWII Museum. The Fagen Fighters Restoration team led by Brandon Deuel was on hand for the engine-run and aircraft taxiing. Evan Fagen, the museum Chief Pilot was at the controls.
Choosing to focus on his Douglas Dauntless project, Smith reluctantly decided to part with the Helldiver, selling it to the Fagen family in 2006. It was only then that real progress on the dive bomber’s restoration could really begin. The Fagen’s have lavished an enormous amount of effort (not to mention financial resources) on the project, and it is a real credit to the skills and dedication of the rebuild team at their workshop, Fagen Fighters Restoration, that we are now fast approaching the date when the Helldiver makes its first flight. While there are two other examples under airworthy restoration elsewhere, the Fagen’s example is likely the closest to completion. When it finally takes to the skies again, it will become only the second airworthy Curtiss Helldiver anywhere in the world, the other being the Commemorative Air Force’s example, SB2C-5 BuNo.83589. This Helldiver is a magnificent representation of the breed, restored with a keen eye for authenticity. Even a brief look inside the crew compartments will confirm how much attention to detail has been poured into the restoration. Fagen Fighters has much to be proud of!