Grumman Wildcat Retrieved From Lake Michigan

Aircorps Art Dec 2019

The Grumman Wildcat Retrieved From Lake Michigan, on display at EAA Airventure 2013
The Grumman Wildcat Retrieved From Lake Michigan, on display at EAA Airventure 2013
Lost during a training exercise, FM-2 Wildcat BuNo 57039 broke the surface of Lake Michigan where it had lain beneath the waves for nearly 70 years, tattered but substantially complete.

The General Motors-built FM-2 suffered engine failure while taking off from the carrier training ship, USS Sable. While the plane sat sinking in the icy waters it was run over by the Sable, breaking the fuselage just behind the canopy. The pilot, Ensign William Forbes, managed to escape both the fighter and the oncoming ship before the airplane sank.

The Wildcat is now owned by The National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida, and is likely to go to the workshops there for restoration before being loaned out to a suitable museum. The Glenview Naval Air Station Museum in Glenview, Illinois, has indicated a desire to secure the Wildcat for display, this plane having been based at Glenview at the time of the accident.

The USS Sable, a converted 1924 sidewheel excursion steamer that was converted to a aircraft carrier mock-up for training purposes and her sister ship, the USS Wolverine trained 17,820 pilots in 116,000 carrier landings. It is estimated that 135-300 aircraft were lost during training; so far 35 have been salvaged and the search for more is underway.


  1. it’s a wildcat in the news clip but all other pictures are of a hellcat…the wildcats wheels retract into the nose…the hellcats the wing

  2. I got some more cylinders off the engine today. One of the cylinders has very very old gasoline in it. the others just have a musty smell. One had a little of Lake Michigan come out. Most of the cylinders are sliding off pretty good. i still have the top cylinders to take off, and two stuck cylinders.

      • Yes. They let me work on the engine because I use a wheelchair a lot and the engine is setting on the floor on blocks. I used to work rebuilding engines before becomming disabled. I want to give something back to the veterans who gave of themselves. I was there when the semi brought the airplane to the Air Zoo, but didn’t connect with someone until a few months later when the cockpit and engine were on the museum floor. I’m surprised how good the inside of the engine looks. The cockpit is getting stripped down real good and has scaffolding around it. Most of the rings are loose in the pistons.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Restored Wildcat Recently Retrieved Lake Michigan Wildcat EAA AirVenture
  2. Air Zoo to Restore Lake Michigan-Retrieved FM-2 Wildcat

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