The Chance-Vought F4U Corsair is one of the most revered aircraft to emerge from WWII. With its unconventional, inverted gull-wing profile and brutish good looks, not to mention its legendary accomplishments, it is no wonder that this potent, charismatic fighter has captured the imaginations of so many aviation-minded people. The aircraft is of complex manufacture though, with its largely spot-welded construction and all-but impossible to re-manufacture main spar, rendering airworthy restorations much more difficult, not to mention costly. However, despite these obstacles, the F4U has undergone a renaissance in recent years, with several projects previously thought impossible to restore having either flown again already, or progressed to a point where they shall soon do so. Regardless, Corsairs rarely come up for sale on the open market, and command significant attention when they do.
As it happens, Platinum Fighter Sales (one of our sponsors) recently listed a magnificently restored, highly original combat veteran Corsair for sale to a discerning collector. This example is Chance Vought F4U-5NL Corsair Bu.124541, a winterized, night fighter variant which flew with U.S. Marine Corps’ famed VMF(N)-513 Flying Nightmares during the Korean War. The F4U-5 Corsair was the first post-WWII model to enter production, and many have said it was the nicest of all to fly. F4U-5 flight testing began in April 1946, but given the advent of jet aviation, the new design enjoyed only a modest manufacturing run of 538 examples before production switched to the AU-1 in October, 1951. Of these Corsairs, 315 were built in the -5NL configuration (with a wing-mounted radar for nighttime interdiction operations and de-icing boots on the wings, empenage and propeller). Just a handful of F4U-5s remain in airworthy condition today.
Below, you can see the U.S.Navy Aircraft History Cards for Bu.124541, which reveal both her allocation to VMF(N)-513 in Korea and that she flew well over 200 hours while serving with that unit, most of which would have been in combat.
The Flying Nightmares were one of the most important operational units within the U.S. Marines at the time when Bu.124541 flew with them. She is probably the last surviving F4U-5NL which they operated.
Soon after Bu.124541 retired from U.S. service, the Argentina Armada (Argentine Navy) acquired her in 1958. She joined roughly two dozen other F4U-5/F4U-5NL Corsairs in Argentine service. Her new Argentinian serial number became 0433. The aircraft initially received the tactical code 2-A-202 while serving with the Armada’s 2.o Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Ataque (2nd Naval Air Fighter Attack Squadron) from early 1959. Later in her South American career, she flew with 3.o Escuadra as 3-A-204. The fighter flew from Argentina’s newly-commissioned aircraft carrier, ARA Independencia. Interestingly, Independencia was a WWII-era, British-built Colossus-class carrier which had previously served in the Royal Navy as HMS Warrior, and Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Warrior. ARA Independencia was the first aircraft carrier in Argentine service, similarly as for the Canadians a decade earlier.
Bu.124541 was involved in a landing accident on November 6th, 1964 with Lt. Jorge Pitaluga at the controls. This essentially marked the end of her military service. The Armada retired this Corsair in April 1966, placing her in storage. In 1972, the fighter became a gate guard at the Museo del la Aviacion Naval, in the Tigre district of Buenos Aires. She remained there until 1991, when a group in France acquired her. Over the next decade, they lavished care and attention on the tired airframe, bringing the Corsair back to a magnificent, airworthy condition, although with modifications to represent an F4U-7 which had served in the French Navy. She made her first post-restoration flight in France at Le Castellet on March 9th, 2000.
In December 2009, Max-Alpha Aviation GmbH acquired the aircraft, basing her in Germany. They flew the fighter extensively throughout Europe during the 2010 season, but then contracted world-renowned Meier Motors to restore the Corsair back to an F4U-5 configuration at their shop in Bremgarten, Germany. Meier Motors completed a comprehensive refurbishment of the airframe, completely stripping down the Corsair for overhaul. Roughly two years later, F4U-5NL Bu.124541 rolled-out of Meier Motors’ workshop with a fresh engine, propeller, avionics, fabric and new nose configuration (returning her to F4U-5 standards). She looked resplendent in the colors of VMF 513 Flying Nightmares, much as she had appeared when serving with the unit in the Korean War, albeit without the wing-mounted radar/radome. She is a magnificent example of the breed, and a rare combat veteran as well.
For more information about this airplane, visit www.platinumfighters.com