Northrop P-61 Black Widow – December 2017 Restoration Update

The Mid Atlantic Air Museum's P-61 Black Widow as she looked at a recent WWII Weekend Air Show outing. Other aspects of the restoration have progressed significantly since this image was taken. (photo via MAAM)

The Mid Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania has just released their 2017 annual summary on progress with the restoration of their ultra-rare Northrop P-61B Black Widow night fighter 42-39445. They have been working diligently on the project since recovering it from the side of Mount Cyclops on Papua, Indonesia in 1991. Structurally, the P-61 has progressed to a degree that the aircraft now looks like a P-61 again. However, the bulk of their efforts this past year have focused more on the smaller details, which always seem to take up a lot more time… and money… than one would initially expect. A number of the more demanding items, like the outer wing spars and one of the engines, are contracted out to workshops which specialize in those areas. Therefore, as the museum states in their press release below, we unfortunately don’t have any current images to share, (although we have included a few older ones here to show how much has already been achieved).

A nice shot of the P-61’s fuselage booms and tail section at a recent WWII Weekend Air Show. (photo via MAAM)

We would like to thank the many followers and donors of our P-61 for their requests for more progress photographs. We happily post new photos as there is new material to show you, but posting photos of electrical wiring or drilled holes in metal or rivets becomes repetitious, especially when the new photos look like others already posted. So, to keep you updated, we will explain where we are with the restoration.

  1. Our wing spars are still outsourced to the machine shop and are not completed yet – thus no new spar photos.
  2. During 2017 several donors stepped forward which has enabled us to order four new brake assemblies ($20,000), order two diamond tread 47s.c. tires ($7,500), overhaul all of the pilot instruments ($10,000), and overhaul all four of the submersible boost pumps ($5,800). All of the above items are now in-house except the four brake assemblies which are expected in the 2nd quarter of 2018.
  3. Another donor has provided the necessary funds to send one of the R2800-65 engines to Anderson Aeromotive for an overhaul ($85,000). The second engine will follow as funding becomes available.
  4. The task of making pattern templates for the four fuel bladders is in progress. The two inboard tank patterns have been completed and test fitted. The initial patterns for the two outboard tanks will begin in January 2018.
  5. Wiring harnesses continue to be built and installed in the airframe.
  6. A materials list is being put together to begin building the control cables for the engines and airframe. We expect to order materials for this part of the project in the 1st quarter of 2018.

Work continues on the P-61 on a daily basis. We assure you the project continues to move forward. I urge you to please be patient and allow us to continue with the various aspects of this spectacular aircraft restoration and we promise to post additional photos as opportunities for new material become available. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

WarbirdsNews would like to thank Russ Strine and the Mid Atlantic Air Museum for sharing these details with us. We wish them the best of luck in completing this important project. Anyone wishing to help further their efforts should click the link HERE to find out how they can contribute.

The P-61’s right rear wing spar during buildup in its fixture. (photo via Russ Strine)
The P-61’s right rear wing spar in its fixture. (photo via Russ Strine)
Right wing trailing edge parts for the Mid Atlantic Air Museum’s P-61. (photo via Russ Strine)


  1. My wife and I attend the Mid Atlantic Airshow every year. We love going and seeing the progress. We buy shirts every time, and donate as much as we can. We know it will be a few years, but we are eager to see the end result. My wife absolutely loves the air show. Thank you for hosting them, and thank you for keeping History alive.

  2. Awesome seeing her in this condition! Many of us kids spent hours hiking up to and playing in the wreck back on Mount Cyclops, I wonder how many of us still have parts from the plane. I can still see her lying on the side of the mountain as if it was yesterday! I would love to be there the day she takes her first flight

  3. You all are doing one hell of a job on her. Keep up the good work. This one is definitely worth the wait.

  4. I remember taking many trips up Mount Cyclops to visit this airplane. When I first went up, there was still air in the tires, then vandals removed a lot of the tread. Later I remember walking on the helicopter pads built to remove the plane. It is exciting to see her coming together. You guys are doing a great job.

  5. Another fantastic and enormously important restoration. Please don’t feel bad about not having any new photos to show us. I’m sure all warbird enthusiasts understand the amount of effort, time and money required on such a huge project. As long as the project is moving forward we know you will eventually reach V1! Best of luck.

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