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Commemorative Air Force seeks help with P–47 restoration

Last of its kind to win a dogfight

Airbase Georgia, a branch of the Commemorative Air Force at Atlanta Regional Airport Falcon Field is working to raise $15,000 through its "12 Planes of Christmas" campaign to help restore its newly acquired Republic P–47 Thunderbolt.

Airbase Georgia, a branch of the Commemorative Air Force, is working to raise $15,000 for its Republic P-47 Thunderbolt restoration project. Photo courtesy of the Commemorative Air Force Airbase Georgia.

“The P–47 is one of the iconic airplanes of the Second World War, a highly acclaimed fighter known for its combat effectiveness,” said Joel Perkins, leader of Airbase Georgia. “With strong financial support, our skilled mechanics can return this amazing warbird to the air for all to enjoy. This is an opportunity for any person or organization to play a role in preserving this important piece of American history and to honor the contributions of all veterans who defended our freedom during World War II.”

Although this particular Republic P–47 never saw combat during the war for which it was made, the aircraft did serve in the Puerto Rico Air National Guard and the Nicaraguan air force, which eventually led to combat time in Nicaragua and Guatemala in the 1950s. According to Airbase Georgia, this aircraft was the last of its type to record an air combat victory.

The CAF acquired the aircraft as part of its initial fleet just prior to 1970. However, the aircraft was heavily damaged by a fire on takeoff 10 years ago. The fuselage was severely burned in addition to the right wing. Initial rebuilding efforts took place at the CAF's Southern California Wing.

Of the 15,636 Thunderbolts built by Republic Aviation, only 13 are airworthy, according to the CAF. Airbase Georgia hopes the project will return a fourteenth airworthy Thunderbolt to flying condition within three years.

Rebuilt wing sections were shipped to Airbase Georgia from the Commemorative Air Force’s Southern California Wing. Photo by Cayla McLeod Hunt.

“You can go into a lot of museums, there's some incredible museums out there where you can see these [warbirds] hanging from the ceilings… but here, everything flies sooner or later,” said Randy Hawkins, Airbase Georgia’s maintenance officer and P–47 project manager. “We can go out in front of the hangar, start it, put one of our pilots in it…and you can hear these airplanes bellow to life and fill the place up with smoke. You can smell it, you can hear it, and you can watch it take off and fly.”

Hawkins said being part of this project is “just incredible. This is what my passion is…and these airplanes are just one-of-a-kind.”

With only a few days remaining until Christmas, the airbase still needs to raise more than half of the target total to reach its $15,000 goal. Contributions from the campaign will go directly to pay for an engine mount and an x-ray inspection. All donations up to $50 will be matched by an anonymous donor.

The P–47’s project aircraft sits in the corner of the hangar beside an SBD Dauntless. Photo by Cayla McLeod Hunt.
The P–47’s project aircraft sits in the corner of the hangar beside an SBD Dauntless. Photo by Cayla McLeod Hunt.
Cayla McLeod

Cayla McLeod Hunt

Social Media Marketer
Social Media Marketer Cayla McLeod Hunt is a private pilot with a love for tailwheel and backcountry aircraft. When she isn't writing stories, she enjoys flying with friends and introducing others to general aviation.
Topics: Warbird, Financial

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