Restoration: Connecticut's State Warbird
What World War II fighter was a product of the Nutmeg State?
- By James Wynbrandt
- Air & Space magazine, January 2010
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Retzke and Sandberg admit that technology drains some of the excitement. “Computers really take the fun out of designing stuff,” Sandberg says. “[Today] you have software that can do stress analysis. Forty, 50 years ago, they set up giant rigs and did stress tests to see where parts failed” (see “Under Stress,” Then & Now, Apr./May 2009). “I feel the guys who did that kind of work were on a higher level.”
The Corsair’s “official” status confers state approval for incorporating the project and Corsair history into school curricula. The project has also established a NASA-funded engineering internship with the University of Hartford. McBurney wants to get Connecticut companies that worked on the Corsair—United Technologies, Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Sundstrand, Sikorsky Aircraft, and others—involved in the restoration.
A Connecticut native, McBurney says his infatuation with Corsairs began as a youngster when he saw restored examples at local airports. And he liked “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” the 1970s television series loosely based on Marine Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington’s Corsair-equipped “Black Sheep” Squadron of World War II. “It’s the first airplane I admired,” he says.
McBurney got his pilot’s license in 1985 at a base flying club while serving in the U.S. Air Force as a gunner on B-52s. After discharge, he maintained and flew B-17, -24, and -25 bombers for aviation museums. Now he devotes most of his time to transforming the Connecticut Corsair into an ambassador for the state’s businesses. Even if he nets a corporate sponsor soon, complete restoration of the airplane to flight-worthy status lies at least three years away.
“I tell the guys, ‘Sometimes you have to put blinders on and ignore the big picture,’ ” he says. “That’s the only way that we can keep working on this. It’s such a phenomenal task, to have the audacity to think you can put something like this together.”
James Wynbrandt lives in New York City and flies a Mooney M20K.