And so it came to pass that on a damp September evening, real progress was officially recorded into the annals of history. The Stratford Corsair, almost forgotten and allowed to decay in the open sea air, silently corroding into oblivion has started to breath again. Not the deep chugs of air that Corsairs like “Marines Dream” or Skyboss” take as they soar into the air. Their R2800’s hammering out an exhaust tone like a symphony, their airframes stressing with every kick of the rudder. No the Stratford Corsair is making shallow breathes like an ICU patient fighting to survive a massive heart attack.
Over in the Skunkworks – Area 53
In building 53 the center section sits on a custom rig built by Mark Corvino. The cockpit is being carefully emptied by Mark Knopic & Ed McGuiness, each assembly being mounted on the 3d “Wall of Pain” , so named because working in that cockpit is a real pain. Bill Dighny, our 90 year old corsair Guru, is working to clear the wing/cockpit bonding strips.
The Main Shop
Back in the main shop in Building 6, most of the main sub assemblies that have been removed, sit awaiting repair. The area is almost like an airframe triage where we figure out how bad the damage is, so we can make the right choice on repair or replacement. Back in the shadows, unseen even from the casual onlooker we have Steve Rescsanski working in Solid Works and AutoCad to map out parts to damaged to use. His blueprints serve as a guide for our even further hidden friends in machine shops around the area, who are donating time and resources to recreate 70 year old parts. Our pair of intrepid honor guards, Rich Jersey and Bob Bracci, are continuing on the repairs to the rudder.
All about the Booth, no, not John Wilkes…
I have taken the lead to run the corrosion control end of the project, on top of being the project director. I find the work enjoyable. With the numerous parts coming off the airframe and almost every single one seems to have some level of corrosion. I also had the opportunity to help Chris take on his own project. It seems no one has ever sat down with him and said “hey, let me teach you how to do this”. Chris is a great kid with a lot of passion and historical knowledge. Thats great, but you need to know what you are doing if your going to take ownership of a project. I spent about 20 min teaching him to use the media blaster. Explaining the nuances and tricks to keep it running. Then showing him how to blast. He caught on really quick and spent the remainder of the afternoon cleaning one of the foot rests. The best part was the next work day, he cut a conversation short while a bunch of us were hanging out talking because he wanted to get back to working on the footrest. That is the kind of people that work on the Stratford Corsair restoration. Dedicated, Motivated…
So how can you tell progress is happening?
Pull up a log next to the fire and listen to this brief but meaningful tale.
The evening sun had began to fade into the horizon as we closed up 53. Mark Corvino had left for the evening having fitted both legs to the wing spar. The decision had been made to revisit the project Saturday when everyone was fresh and ready to make the move. The move is where we jack up the center section and finally remove the truck chassis from beneath it. Mark Knopic, Chris Soltis and myself took the time to clean up and clear the area under and around the plane for the weekend. So after locking up the building we ran into a pair of new volunteers who we met at the Collings Foundation stop at the airport. They work at Sikorsky and will be joining up on the night shift to work on a new project that is about to start. As we were walking back through the hanger and near the shop we heard a stucatto sound coming from the Corsair area. Wap… Wap… Wap… pause Wap… Wap… Wap… “What the hell is that?” I asked Mark, who was coming back toward our little group across the shop. Before he could answer I saw it. It was an important moment that I didn’t have the camera ready for. There stood Rich Jersey, rivet gun in hand and Bob Bracci bucking bar in hand, riveting a section of skin on the rudder.
This is an important moment. When the rivet guns start hammering, replacing the clecos and clamps, it is akin to the heart attack victim having chest compressions and being given successful CPR. All of the sudden, the breathing starts, slowly.