So I find myself up at 4:50am, I guess that’s better than 4:30am. The morning turned out to be beautiful and I was treated to the most beautiful sunrise I have seen in a long time. Almost a cream-cicle orange sky lay ahead of my path. I am reminded that along time ago the F4U Corsair was built to arm our Navy and Marines with the fighting power to take on the Rising Sun. Now my battle to help rescue a poor forlorn Corsair places me on a path directly into the Rising Sun.
The Connecticut Air and Space Center was dark and quiet when Nancy (our archivist) and I arrived, and as usual I opened AREA 53 up and awoke the Corsair from her quiet slumber. Today was going to be very special indeed for the old plane. Chris and Bill arrived not much later this morning and the shop came to life.
We were surprised by a familiar but sadly absent face this morning. Jimmy D’Amico, who I had met several weeks earlier at a filling station by chance, and his young lady friend had stopped in to discuss the cowl ring and panels, which were at the Avaition School across the street. At the gas station that morning a few weeks back I spotted a well worn B-17 hat slouched on a young man’s head. It gave him away as a Warbird fan from 20 paces. After a 2 minute conversation I found out that he was the one who redid the cockpit of the the CASC’s, US Navy Cessna 0-2. Unfortunately, he was forced to stop his volunteering thanks to a very busy school schedule at the Connecticut School for Aviation at Sikorsky Memorial Airport, across the street. He is in the process of getting his Airframe & Powerplant license. When he is finished with school he hopes to continue working on several of the projects. The school currently has possession of the Cowl Ring and cowl panels at their shop for stripping and Jimmy stopped by to pick up some Zinc Chromate paint.
According to Wikipedia… Zinc chromate, ZnCrO4, is a chemical compound containing the chromate anion. It is used industrially in chromate conversion coatings. If you have seen military aircraft or airframes in a restoration shop you may have seen a green or yellow-green primer. This is used to prevent corrosion and was used liberally in the Corsair. As long as you don’t do something silly like scrape it off or say, pierce the skin with Carbon Steel bolts and add some salt air, it will really help protect the airframe for along time.
Now due to current laws we are not allowed to use Chromate based paints in Connecticut but there are alternatives we can use. If any of my readers out here would like to help us out and make a donation, we can use the NEW Non- Chromate waterborne type Zinc Chromate paints and gray primer if anyone knows anyone out there looking to donate. It always makes it cheaper when we send our paint work off-site with the correct paint to be used.
I grabbed Jim and Chris to help me remove the tailcone section. Well all the hours of reading manuals and making game plans were shot to hell in 2 second. It seems that at some point the ass end of the Corsair was chopped off. Ouch! So along with the pair of forklift punctures on the port side and the one puncture on the starboard side, we now have a hand made tailcone.
After freeing about 50 rivets and some subtle prying it popped of and what a surprise we got! The intrusion of wild life into every section of the airframe is amazing. The tail area was packed with a large birds nest complete with feathers and some bird bones. One of our board members and fellow shop mates Dave, who is also our T-33 Expert, joined in on the bird watching festival. I gave him a good jibe about, “…the Corsair having more Tail feathers than his jet.”
Chris and Jim had to leave so I went back to work on removing the Elevator and the Rudder locks. Locks are a figurative term. The 1970’s makeover had seen the tail surfaces riveted with aluminum to lock them in position. The surfaces eventually came free and moved for the first time in 37+ years. The corrosion is bad here as well as in other places, but not as deep so there is that.
I have to say that when I pushed the elevators up and stood back to take a photo, that for a second I thought to myself, “Full Throttle, Pull back on the stick and Be Free, Fly like a eagle, soaring high and into the Rising Sun” I guess I’m just a little sentimental.