Which one of six past champions would have gotten your vote?
- By Linda Shiner
- Air & Space magazine, August 2007
(Page 2 of 4)Glacier Girl is a P-38F, the third revision of the fighter that Kelly Johnson and his team continued to improve throughout the war. Despite being heavier than earlier models, it was also a little faster, able to reach 395 mph. (Later models of the Lightning pushed past 400 mph in level flight, the first U.S. fighters able to do so.) Though no Luftwaffe pilot was ever happy to see a P-38, the fighter’s reputation was made in the Pacific, where pilots like highest-scoring U.S. ace Richard Bong bested Japanese Zeros.
The Lightning is sometimes overshadowed by the Mustang to which it handed off the job of escorting bombers to Germany. But though the North American P-51 is considered by many the more capable fighter, the odd-looking P-38 somehow has more panache.
When owner Rod Lewis, president of the Lewis Energy Group in San Antonio, Texas, bought the famous fighter last year, he was committed to the costly transatlantic flight. “Mainly I’m interested in preserving the heritage and history,” he says. (Lewis owns seven other warbirds, including Rare Bear, a Grumman F8F Bearcat racer and record holder.)
And Glacier Girl’s future? “We plan on attending a few airshows a year,” says Lewis, “and people can see her in San Antonio. We’re not going to cover her up.” Good news for an airplane that spent 50 years under ice.
History - Grumman J2F-4 Duck
Every airplane competing for the National Aviation Hall of Fame People’s Choice award has a claim to history, but the only one to have had a ringside seat at an event that changed the world is Chuck Greenhill’s Duck. On December 7, 1941, the Grumman J2F-4 was serving with U.S. Navy utility squadron VJ-1, stationed at Pearl Harbor, when the Japanese bombed Ford Island. Undamaged by the attack, the Duck and other squadron aircraft took off that day to search for the Japanese fleet. The morning after, the J2F-4 returned to doing what it had always done for the Navy: a little bit of everything. Ducks transported officers, searched for and rescued downed airmen, flew photo missions, even dropped bombs now and then, but they won little glory for their trouble. (When you hear “Grumman” and “World War II,” your next thought is Hellcat, Bearcat, or Wildcat — not Duck.) Greenhill, the president of Smalley Steel Ring Company in Lake Zurich, Illinois, owns three other Grummans, two Goose and an Albatross, and has owned a Widgeon. “I just love old seaplanes,” he says. “It’s the freedom of just going anywhere, of being away from the airport environment. Sometimes,” he continues, “I go down to the hangar and walk around. I just love looking at them.”
Courage - 1943 Piper L-4 Grasshopper
In 2005, the National Aviation Heritage judges gave June and Colin Powers top honors, a reward for three years of painstaking work on their little liaison craft, the military version of a Piper Cub. The restoration was accurate right down to the alpha-numeric codes that manufacturers stenciled on airplanes bound for World War II service. (The codes identified the manufacturer and other details to expedite repairs.) “My goal was to make it as best I could a museum-quality restoration,” says Colin Powers. In fact, sometime after the Oshkosh fly-in, the airplane is indeed headed for a museum: the Evergreen Air Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, where Powers is now the director of restoration.
Although Powers was gratified by the judges’ recognition, what sticks in his memory from that weekend at the Dayton airshow was another moment: meeting Carol Apacki, the daughter of an L-4 pilot, and putting her in the cockpit.