In Cameron Park, California, Vultures Row Aviation is deep into the groud-up restoration of what will become the world’s only airworthy Vought F4U-1 Corsair. This early F4U variant, often referred to as a ‘Birdcage Corsair’ due to its framed sliding canopy sectionwas the 297th production Corsair which Vought-Sikorsky completed at their factory in Stratford, Connecticut. She served in the U.S. Marine Corps as BuNo.02449, deploying to the South Pacific in May 1943, initially with VMF-112 on Guadalcanal. However, following reassignment that July, she joined the famed VMF-214 ‘Swashbucklers’, a unit which became known as ‘Blacksheep Squadron’ after becoming an official Marine Corps Squadron in September 1943 – with the legendary Gregory ‘Pappy’ Boyington as its CO. During this time, BuNo.02449 was stationed at Fighter Strip 1, Turtle Bay, Espiritu Santo until a crash ended her combat career on October 1, 1943. The wreck lay where it fell for many years until acquired and recovered by an Australian, who eventually sold it to the owner of Vultures Row Aviation in late 2014. It’s been under steady rebuild back to flying condition since that time…
By May 2021, the entire center section was considered structurally complete, with work presently focused upon the flap spar area. The ‘Birdcage’ Corsair’s mid-fuselage section, like much of the aircraft, is unlike subsequent production models; it is undergoing assembly in its own jig, joining the nearly completed tail cone assembly. Vultures Row has manufactured new wing leading edge skins in-house on their Farnham roller and these are now in the process of being drilled to the early wet-wing sub-assemblies, also unique to early -1A and earlier Corsair production variants.
An early model Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8 (without water injection) is nearing completion at Anderson Aeromotive; it features an unusual two-speed blower clutch system which differs to the later series engines. Vultures Row has also begun forming and installing the hydraulic lines, installing newly-manufactured wing fuel tank components, restoring the early, fabric-covered flap assemblies, and forming the aft cockpit ‘scallop’ skins, unique to the ‘Birdcage’ variant. Sticking to the highest level of authenticity, the distinct salmon-colored primer, as used in early Corsair production, is present throughout. Vought created this unusual color by mixing Indian Red Pigment paste with zinc chromate to ensure each part received two coats of primer.
July 2021 witnessed a major milestone with the Corsair’s center section, as the team has completed the restoration/manufacture of all structural parts, and has begun final assembly. Vultures Row expects that it will take roughly two months to complete the task of permanently riveting these components in place.
Vultures Row is also looking to hire additional staff as well. Any interested parties should submit their information by email and follow up with a call.
We look forwards to following this one-of-a-kind restoration as it progresses, and can’t wait to see this Corsair back in the air!