It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do for an airplane. That’s especially true for this Grumman F9F Panther, shown above, going through a wing-folding test in the late summer of 2009. The airplane will go on permanent display with its wings level at the Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in the summer of 2010, but they’ll need to fold for the three-mile trip from the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport, where the restoration took place, to the Aviation Heritage Park.
Dan Cherry, Director of the Park, has shepherded the restoration in honor of the late U.S. Navy Cdr. John Magda, who flew an F9F as flight leader of the Blue Angels in 1950. Though Magda never flew this specific Panther, which Grumman delivered in April 1952, he died in Korea in March 1951 trying to ditch a Panther damaged in combat.
The sequence of pictures below, by photographer John Fleck, shows the Panther, retrieved after decades in a park in Winona, Minnesota, in its final stages of a restoration to Blue Angel number one, with Magda’s name on the cockpit.
Wings held high, the Panther appeared ready to take flight like a bird flapping its wings. The wings folded to maximize space aboard aircraft carriers in the early 1950s, and were usually positioned nearly vertical. On this day, the staff was testing special wing struts they had fabricated from an original piece. Numerous patches were visible on the airplane where holes and dents had been filled with an aluminum epoxy compound, then sanded.